Resistance and sex among bacteria

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Science  06 May 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6286, pp. 669-670
DOI: 10.1126/science.352.6286.669-d

Gene swapping among bacteria by conjugation (aka sex) has long been thought to be triggered by antibiotics, an effect which then promotes the spread of antibiotic-resistance genes. Lopatkin et al. tested a variety of antibiotics on conjugation and found that it is not so simple. Specifically, resistant offspring can be selected, but if the parents are already resistant, resistant offspring are not selected. Alternatively, if parent populations are killed, then less gene swapping occurs. Hence, the direction and efficiency of conjugation in the presence of antibiotics depends on the dynamics of the whole bacterial population. Models and sequencing can help distinguish and predict rates of gene swapping for particular conditions.

Nat. Microbiol. 10.1038/nmicrobiol.2016.44 (2016).

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