Tetracycline and Phenicol Resistance Genes and Mechanisms: Importance for Agriculture, the Environment, and Humans
Recent reports have speculated on the future impact that antibiotic-resistant bacteria will have on food production, human health, and global economics. This review examines microbial resistance to tetracyclines and phenicols, antibiotics that are widely used in global food production. The mechanisms of resistance, mode of spread between agriculturally and human-impacted environments and ecosystems, distribution among bacteria, and the genes most likely to be associated with agricultural and environmental settings are included. Forty-six different tetracycline resistance (tet) genes have been identified in 126 genera, with tet(M) having the broadest taxonomic distribution among all bacteria and tet(B) having the broadest coverage among the Gram-negative genera. Phenicol resistance genes are organized into 37 groups and have been identified in 70 bacterial genera. The review provides the latest information on tetracycline and phenicol resistance genes, including their association with mobile genetic elements in bacteria of environmental, medical, and veterinary relevance. Knowing what specific antibiotic-resistance genes (ARGs) are found in specific bacterial species and/or genera is critical when using a selective suite of ARGs for detection or surveillance studies. As detection methods move to molecular techniques, our knowledge about which type of bacteria carry which resistance gene(s) will become more important to ensure that the whole spectrum of bacteria are included in future surveillance studies. This review provides information needed to integrate the biology, taxonomy, and ecology of tetracycline- and phenicol-resistant bacteria and their resistance genes so that informative surveillance strategies can be developed and the correct genes selected.