According to the research team, led by Oxford University’s Department of Biology, applying these findings could save lives, as it highlights the importance of preventing pathogenic bacteria from translocating from the gut to other organs where they can cause serious infections.
The study was conducted on a patient that carried the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa as part of their gut microbiome. This species is one of the leading causes of infections in hospitals, and one that is particularly good at resisting antibiotics. Whilst Pseudomonas is generally not considered to be dangerous when it is embedded in a healthy gut microbiome, it can cause serious infections in the lungs of hospitalized patients.
During their stay in hospital, the patient was treated with the antibiotic Meropenem for a suspected urinary tract infection (UTI). Meropenem treatment caused non-resistant bacteria in the gut and lung to be killed off, and antibiotic resistant mutants of Pseudomonas were able to grow and proliferate. Pseudomonas was then found to translocate from the gut to the patient’s lungs during antibiotic treatment, where it evolved even higher levels of antibiotic resistance.