Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Will the Plague Pathogen Become Resistant to Antibiotics?

A small piece of DNA that helps bacteria commonly found in US meat and poultry resist several antibiotics has also been found in the plague bacillus Yersinia pestis, gene sequence researchers report.

The ability to resist many of the antibiotics used against plague has been found so far in only a single case of the disease in Madagascar. But because the same ability is present in other kinds of bacteria from a broad range of livestock, antibiotic resistance could potentially spread to other Y. pestis and also other bacterial pathogens. In a paper published March 21 in the new journal PLoS ONE, the authors say this possibility "represents a significant public health concern."

Genetic ability to disable antibiotics, including multidrug resistance (MDR) sequences, is carried on plasmids, small circles of DNA that are passed easily between bacteria. In this study, the same MDR plasmids found in the Y. pestis from Madagascar were also present in bacteria such as Salmonella and Escherichia coli found in retail samples of beef, pork, chicken, and turkey from several US states.

"What we've done is revealed a mechanism for the acquisition of multidrug resistance in Y. pestis. Obviously, this is an event that might have serious human health consequences. But the sequencing work we've done has given us a way to monitor this plasmid in future," says senior author Jacques Ravel of The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) in Rockville, MD.

... more about:
»MDR »PLoS »Plasmid »antibiotic »pestis »resist

"The fact that we found a plasmid usually found in Salmonella in Y. pestis is a big problem. It also raises a question about how this happened, how it went from one to the other. But that's a question we cannot answer in this paper," Ravel notes. He urges a new monitoring program to track MDR in Y. pestis.

MDR Salmonella and E. coli have been found in droppings from wild geese, raising the possibility that wild animals might be able to spread MDR far beyond the livestock where it originated, Ravel notes.

"When we identified the first Y. pestis strain resistant to multiple antibiotics, we warned that if this type of strain spreads or emerges again, it would pose a serious health problem" says co-author Elisabeth Carniel, head of the Yersinia Research Unit at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. "The discovery that the multiresistance plasmid acquired by the plague bacillus is widespread in environmental bacteria reinforces this warning".

There have been many plague epidemics in human history, and Y. pestis is believed to have killed an estimated 200 million people. Plague is now regarded as a re-emerging disease, with small outbreaks all over the world. Because plague is often fatal, Y. pestis is a potential agent for bioterrorism. There is no vaccine, but antibiotics are useful for treatment and for preventing the disease's spread. The researchers observe, "Our data imply that high levels of MDR in the causative agent of plague may rapidly evolve naturally, and present a vital biomedical, public health, and biodefense threat."

The paper resulted from an international collaboration among researchers at TIGR, a division of the J. Craig Venter Institute, the Institut Pasteur in Paris, the Agricultural Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture, and the US Food and Drug Administration. This work was performed at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases-funded Microbial Sequencing Center managed by TIGR.

The paper appears in the March 21 issue of PLoS ONE, the international, peer-reviewed, open-access, online publication from the Public Library of Science (PLoS). After publication, the paper will be available on the PLoS ONE site ( and at

Andrew Hyde | alfa
Further information:

Further reports about: MDR PLoS Plasmid antibiotic pestis resist

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Gene therapy shows promise for treating Niemann-Pick disease type C1
27.10.2016 | NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute

nachricht 'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape
27.10.2016 | International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>