Researchers from the Julius Kühn Institut, Germany have found that produce is a reservoir for transferable antibiotic resistance genes that often escape traditional molecular detection methods. These antibiotic resistance genes might escape cultivation-independent detection, but could still be transferred to human pathogens or commensals. The results, which highlight the importance of the rare microbiome of produce as a source of antibiotic resistance genes, are published in the open-access journal, mBio.

Produce is increasingly recognized as a source of pathogenic bacteria, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and antibiotic resistance genes. This study aimed to explore methods to characterize the transferable resistome – the collection of antibiotic resistance genes present in bacteria – associated with produce.

The researchers analyzed mixed salad, arugula, and cilantro purchased from supermarkets in Germany by cultivation and DNA-based methods. These results confirmed that cultivation-independent DNA-based methods are not always sufficiently sensitive to detect the transferable resistome in the rare microbiome, such as that of produce.

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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