Early life acquisition of AMR in newborn children from low and middle-income countries
In a new study published in Nature Microbiology, Dr. Maria Carvalho, Dr. Kirsty Sands and a network of international colleagues decided to look at the presence of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in the gut microbiota-the collection of microbes that are present in the human gut-of mothers and their babies from 7 LMICs in Africa and South Asia.
They recruited 35,040 mothers and 36,285 neonates from LMICS. From there, they collected 18,148 rectal swabs, which were used to grow the bacteria present in these samples and assess the presence of clinically important ARGs in the microbiota of mothers and their babies. The authors found that a large number of samples carried genes linked to antibiotic resistance, suggesting that AMR is far more widespread in these settings than previously anticipated.
For example, samples from around 1 in 5 neonates (18.5%) were positive for blaNDM, a gene that encodes New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase, which is an enzyme that can destroy ß-lactam antibiotics including the commonly used carbapenems, resulting in the bacteria being resistant against this drug. Importantly, the researchers found that ARGs were present in neonates within hours of birth, indicating that initial colonization of the newborns with antibiotic-resistant bacteria occurred at birth or soon after, likely through contact with the mother or from the hospital environment
The studies highlight that a better understanding of the routes of ARG transmission, including mother-to-child and within the clinical environment, is essential to prevent neonatal sepsis. Finally, the results reinforce the importance of access to safe water, sanitation, and good hygiene to reduce AMR and lower neonatal sepsis and mortality rates in LMICs.
Dr. Maria Carvalho, Dr. Kirsty Sands et. al, Antibiotic resistance genes in the gut microbiota of mothers and linked neonates with or without sepsis from low and middle-income countries, Nature Microbiology, 4-Aug-2022
B.Sc Life Sciences, M.Sc Biotechnology, B.Ed