Selection versus Transmission: Quantitative and Organismic Biology in Antibiotic Resistance

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Fernando Baquero, Ana Elena Pérez-Cobas, Sonia Aracil-Gisbert, Teresa M Coque, Javier Zamora


We aimed to determine the importance of selection (mostly dependent on the anthropogenic use of antimicrobials) and transmission (mostly dependent on hygiene and sanitation) as drivers of the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacterial populations. The first obstacle to estimating the relative weight of both independent variables is the lack of detailed quantitative data concerning the number of bacterial cells, potentially either pathogenic or harmless, and bacterial species exposed to antimicrobial action in the microbiotas of specific environments. The second obstacle is the difficulty of considering the importance of the various parameters influencing antibiotic resistance across eco-biological levels that constitute an “organism-like” entity. As a consequence, advances are urgently required in quantitative biology and organismic biology of antimicrobial resistance. The absolute number of humans exposed to antibiotics and the absolute number of potentially pathogenic and commensal bacteria in their microbiomes should influence both the selection and transmission of resistant bacterial populations. The “whole Earth” microbiome, with astonishingly high numbers of bacterial cells and species, which are also exposed to anthropogenic antimicrobials in various biogeographical spaces, shape the antibiotic resistance landscape. These biogeographical spaces influence various intensities of selection and transmission of potentially pathogenic bacteria. While waiting for more precise data, biostatistics analysis and mathematical or computational modeling can provide proxies to compare the influence of selection and transmission in resistant bacteria. In European countries with lower sanitation levels, antibiotic consumption plays a major role in increasing antibiotic resistance; however this is not the case in countries with high sanitation levels. Although both independent variables are linked, their relative influence on the level of antibiotic resistance varies according to the particular location. Therefore, although interventions directed to decrease antibiotic resistance should be designed “à la carte,” the global effects of antibiotic exposure and resistance on local sites cannot be underestimated.



Life Sciences, Medicine and Health Sciences


selection, Transmission, Quantitative Biology, Organismic Biology, biogeography, Antibiotic Resistance, Transmission, Quantitative Biology, Organismic Biology, biogeography


Published: 2024-02-02 02:20

Last Updated: 2024-02-02 07:20


CC-By Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International

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