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      Heavy metal driven co-selection of antibiotic resistance in soil and water bodies impacted by agriculture and aquaculture

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          The use of antibiotic agents as growth promoters was banned in animal husbandry to prevent the selection and spread of antibiotic resistance. However, in addition to antibiotic agents, heavy metals used in animal farming and aquaculture might promote the spread of antibiotic resistance via co-selection. To investigate which heavy metals are likely to co-select for antibiotic resistance in soil and water, the available data on heavy metal pollution, heavy metal toxicity, heavy metal tolerance, and co-selection mechanisms was reviewed. Additionally, the risk of metal driven co-selection of antibiotic resistance in the environment was assessed based on heavy metal concentrations that potentially induce this co-selection process. Analyses of the data indicate that agricultural and aquacultural practices represent major sources of soil and water contamination with moderately to highly toxic metals such as mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd), copper (Cu), and zinc (Zn). If those metals reach the environment and accumulate to critical concentrations they can trigger co-selection of antibiotic resistance. Furthermore, co-selection mechanisms for these heavy metals and clinically as well as veterinary relevant antibiotics have been described. Therefore, studies investigating co-selection in environments impacted by agriculture and aquaculture should focus on Hg, Cd, Cu, and Zn as selecting heavy metals. Nevertheless, the respective environmental background has to be taken into account.

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          Most cited references 53

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          Antibacterial resistance worldwide: causes, challenges and responses.

          The optimism of the early period of antimicrobial discovery has been tempered by the emergence of bacterial strains with resistance to these therapeutics. Today, clinically important bacteria are characterized not only by single drug resistance but also by multiple antibiotic resistance--the legacy of past decades of antimicrobial use and misuse. Drug resistance presents an ever-increasing global public health threat that involves all major microbial pathogens and antimicrobial drugs.
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            The shared antibiotic resistome of soil bacteria and human pathogens.

            Soil microbiota represent one of the ancient evolutionary origins of antibiotic resistance and have been proposed as a reservoir of resistance genes available for exchange with clinical pathogens. Using a high-throughput functional metagenomic approach in conjunction with a pipeline for the de novo assembly of short-read sequence data from functional selections (termed PARFuMS), we provide evidence for recent exchange of antibiotic resistance genes between environmental bacteria and clinical pathogens. We describe multidrug-resistant soil bacteria containing resistance cassettes against five classes of antibiotics (β-lactams, aminoglycosides, amphenicols, sulfonamides, and tetracyclines) that have perfect nucleotide identity to genes from diverse human pathogens. This identity encompasses noncoding regions as well as multiple mobilization sequences, offering not only evidence of lateral exchange but also a mechanism by which antibiotic resistance disseminates.
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              Microbial heavy-metal resistance.

              We are just beginning to understand the metabolism of heavy metals and to use their metabolic functions in biotechnology, although heavy metals comprise the major part of the elements in the periodic table. Because they can form complex compounds, some heavy metal ions are essential trace elements, but, essential or not, most heavy metals are toxic at higher concentrations. This review describes the workings of known metal-resistance systems in microorganisms. After an account of the basic principles of homoeostasis for all heavy-metal ions, the transport of the 17 most important (heavy metal) elements is compared.

                Author and article information

                Front Microbiol
                Front Microbiol
                Front. Microbio.
                Frontiers in Microbiology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                14 December 2012
                : 3
                Institute of Hydrobiology, Technische Universität Dresden Dresden, Germany
                Author notes

                Edited by: Rustam I. Aminov, University of the West Indies, Jamaica

                Reviewed by: Henning Sørum, Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Norway; Jan Siemens, University of Bonn, Germany

                *Correspondence: Claudia Seiler, Institute of Hydrobiology, Technische Universität Dresden, Zellescher Weg 40, 01217 Dresden, Germany. e-mail: claudia.seiler@

                This article was submitted to Frontiers in Antimicrobials, Resistance and Chemotherapy, a specialty of Frontiers in Microbiology.

                Copyright © 2012 Seiler and Berendonk.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

                Figures: 0, Tables: 4, Equations: 0, References: 80, Pages: 10, Words: 8272
                Review Article

                Microbiology & Virology

                co-selection, farming, aquaculture, agriculture, heavy metal, antibiotic resistance


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