Antibiotics Do Not Affect Gene Swapping In Bacteria

By Meghan Bialt-DeCelie ’19

Contrary to popular belief, research from Duke University shows that antibiotics do not promote gene swapping in bacteria causing antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotics are becoming increasingly ineffective as bacteria rapidly develop resistance to them. Scientists once believed that antibiotics promote conjugation, a process in which the DNA of bacteria can be swapped for more helpful genes in order to develop a resistance.

In a study led by Dr. Lingchong You of Duke University, researchers were able to determine that antibiotics actually do not increase the rate of conjugation. Bacteria cells were put in a condition where they could not reproduce or die, but could still continue to carry on conjugation. By removing the cell’s death and birth factor, researchers were able to determine whether antibiotics could change the rate of conjugation. The rate of conjugation in each of the nine strains tested was either unchanged or had decreased with the addition of antibiotics. Dr. You believes that instead of conjugation, bacteria simply build resistance because their non-resistant counterparts die off.

Dr. You’s research of understanding how and why certain bacteria develop resistance is crucial for finding a new method of treating diseases.



Antibiotics don’t promote swapping of resistance genes. Science Daily (2016).

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