The role of conjugative transposons in spreading antibiotic resistance between bacteria that inhabit the gastrointestinal tract

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2002 Dec;59(12):2071-82. doi: 10.1007/s000180200007.


There is huge potential for genetic exchange to occur within the dense, diverse anaerobic microbial population inhabiting the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) of humans and animals. However, the incidence of conjugative transposons (CTns) and the antibiotic resistance genes they carry has not been well studied among this population. Since any incoming bacteria, including pathogens, can access this reservoir of genes, this oversight would appear to be an important one. Recent evidence has shown that anaerobic bacteria native to the rumen or hindgut harbour both novel antibiotic resistance genes and novel conjugative transposons. These CTns, and previously characterized CTns, can be transferred to a wide range of commensal bacteria under laboratory and in vivo conditions. The main evidence that gene transfer occurs widely in vivo between GIT bacteria, and between GIT bacteria and pathogenic bacteria, is that identical resistance genes are present in diverse bacterial species from different hosts.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria, Anaerobic / genetics*
  • Bacteria, Anaerobic / physiology
  • Conjugation, Genetic*
  • DNA Transposable Elements / genetics*
  • Digestive System / microbiology*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Humans


  • DNA Transposable Elements