Microbiologist uncovers origins of antimicrobial resistance in cholera bacteria

Dr. Salvador Almagro-Moreno, a microbiologist at UCF College of Medicine, has shed light on the evolutionary origins of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in bacteria in a recent publication in PLoS Genetics. As bacteria mutate, they can develop resistance to drugs, making it crucial to understand how this occurs. According to Dr. Almagro-Moreno, AMR poses a major threat to public health as it is on the rise, and the mechanisms leading to AMR are still not well understood.

In his research, Dr. Almagro-Moreno investigated the cholera-causing bacterium Vibrio cholerae, focusing on genetic variants of a protein called OmpU found in bacterial membranes. By using computational and molecular approaches, his team identified several OmpU mutations that confer resistance to various antimicrobial agents, including those that act as defenses in the human gut. Through comparing resistant and antibiotic-sensitive variants, they pinpointed specific parts of OmpU associated with antibiotic resistance and discovered that these genetic traits can be passed between bacterial cells, increasing the risk of spreading AMR in populations under antibiotic pressure.

Dr. Almagro-Moreno is also investigating environmental factors, such as pollution and warming oceans, as possible causes of resistant bacteria. By studying the genetic diversity of environmental populations, including coastal Florida isolates, he aims to develop a new approach to understanding how AMR evolves.

Cholera is a global concern, causing an acute diarrheal illness linked to contaminated water and food sources. With up to 4 million people affected by the disease worldwide, and severe cases leading to death within hours, understanding the bacteria that causes it is crucial for public health.

Source: University of Central Florida

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