Antibiotic resistant bacteria and resistance genes can utilize environmental dissemination routes for their dispersal between different settings, as can human pathogens. Thus, the mobility of microbes and their genes is central to fully understand both resistance development and the ecology of infectious diseases. Another concept that is central for the spread of resistance genes are their potential to move between molecules of DNA through plasmids, integrons, transposons and “genomic islands”.

I have studied the gene dispersal through genomic and metagenomic approaches, to investigate the spread of antibiotic resistance through travel, the mobilization of DNA in polluted a lake, and the co-resistance patterns of currently sequenced plasmids. In addition, we have addressed the mobility potential of resistance genes in sewage treatment plants, primarily through metagenomic assembly.

Open questions of interest

  1. How can pollution induce genetic mobilization?
  2. Are antibiotic selection accelerating mobilization of other genes than those conferring antibiotic resistance?
  3. What is the role of mobile DNA in the process co-resistance development?
  4. What selection pressures favor mobilization of DNA?
  5. Do genes follow the same ecological principles as species in terms of, for example, dispersal?
  6. What is the role of mobile DNA in the resilience of microbial ecosystems to perturbations?

Key publications

  • Bengtsson-Palme J, Angelin M, Huss M, Kjellqvist S, Kristiansson E, Palmgren H, Larsson DGJ, Johansson A: The human gut microbiome as a transporter of antibiotic resistance genes between continents. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 59, 10, 6551-6560 (2015). doi: 10.1128/AAC.00933-15 [Paper link]
  • Bengtsson-Palme J, Boulund F, Fick J, Kristiansson E, Larsson DGJ: Shotgun metagenomics reveals a wide array of antibiotic resistance genes and mobile elements in a polluted lake in India. Frontiers in Microbiology, 5, 648 (2014). doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2014.00648 [Paper link]
  • Pal C, Bengtsson-Palme J, Kristiansson E, Larsson DGJ: Co-occurrence of resistance genes to antibiotics, biocides and metals reveals novel insights into their co-selection potential. BMC Genomics, 16, 964 (2015). doi: 10.1186/s12864-015-2153-5 [Paper link]