Exploring the contribution of bacteriophages to antibiotic resistance

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Bacteriophages (phages) are the most abundant and diverse biological entities in our planet. They infect susceptible bacterial hosts into which they either multiply or persist. In the latter case, phages can confer new functions to their hosts as a result of gene transfer, thus contributing to their adaptation (short-term) and evolution (long-term). In this regard, the role of phages on the dissemination of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) among bacterial hosts in natural environments has not yet been clearly resolved. Here, we carry out a comprehensive analysis of thirty-three viromes from different habitats to investigate whether phages harbor ARGs. Our results demonstrate that while human-associated viromes do not or rarely carry ARGs, viromes from non-human sources (e.g. pig feces, raw sewage, and freshwater and marine environments) contain a large reservoir of ARGs, thus pointing out that phages could play a part on the spread of antibiotic resistance. Given this, the role of phages should not be underestimated and it should be considered when designing strategies to tackle the global crisis of antibiotic resistance ​
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