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New bacteria discovered in moth gut provides insights into antibiotic resistance

Research Digest
Agri-TechE

Overcoming antibiotic resistance

Livestock farmers potentially have a new tool in their ongoing battle against disease causing bacteria thanks to new research. Harriet Gooch, a scientist from the John Innes Centre, has recently identified a new bacterial species with natural resistance to the antibiotic vancomycin, which she has called Enterococcus innesii.

Since the discovery of penicillin nearly a century ago, antimicrobials have revolutionised our society and economy. Diseases that were previously deadly are now treatable. However, this achievement is now in danger, with antimicrobial resistance – the ability of a microbe (like bacteria) to survive antibiotic treatment – a huge issue for human, animal, and environmental health.

Greater Wax Moth (Galleria mellonella)
Greater Wax Moth (Galleria mellonella) – photo by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren

Until recently, antibiotics were traditionally given to livestock to help keep them healthy and promote growth. However, this use of antibiotics on farms helped fuel the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria in the farm environment.

Measures are now in place to help reduce and control antibiotic use in livestock. Through the action of BVA and the Onehealth programme, sales of antibiotics for food producing animals have decreased by 40% over the last few years.

New tools in the armoury

Reducing antibiotic use alone is not enough to end the threat posed by antimicrobial resistance.  An important additional step it to work out how bacteria develop resistance in the first place.

Research revealed that E. innesii has natural resistance to the antibiotic vancomycin, conferred by a gene potentially unique to this species of bacteria. Understanding how this gene is regulated may help future research into how this bacterium achieves antibiotic resistance, and ultimately increase understanding of how bacteria become resistant to antibiotics.

Postgraduate researcher Harriet Gooch is part of Tony Maxwell’s lab at the John Innes Centre.
Read the research article at microbiologyresearch.org.