Prevalence of tetracycline resistance genes in oral bacteria

Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2003 Mar;47(3):878-82. doi: 10.1128/AAC.47.3.878-882.2003.


Tetracycline is a broad-spectrum antibiotic used in humans, animals, and aquaculture; therefore, many bacteria from different ecosystems are exposed to this antibiotic. In order to determine the genetic basis for resistance to tetracycline in bacteria from the oral cavity, saliva and dental plaque samples were obtained from 20 healthy adults who had not taken antibiotics during the previous 3 months. The samples were screened for the presence of bacteria resistant to tetracycline, and the tetracycline resistance genes in these isolates were identified by multiplex PCR and DNA sequencing. Tetracycline-resistant bacteria constituted an average of 11% of the total cultivable oral microflora. A representative 105 tetracycline-resistant isolates from the 20 samples were investigated; most of the isolates carried tetracycline resistance genes encoding a ribosomal protection protein. The most common tet gene identified was tet(M), which was found in 79% of all the isolates. The second most common gene identified was tet(W), which was found in 21% of all the isolates, followed by tet(O) and tet(Q) (10.5 and 9.5% of the isolates, respectively) and then tet(S) (2.8% of the isolates). Tetracycline resistance genes encoding an efflux protein were detected in 4.8% of all the tetracycline-resistant isolates; 2.8% of the isolates had tet(L) and 1% carried tet(A) and tet(K) each. The results have shown that a variety of tetracycline resistance genes are present in the oral microflora of healthy adults. This is the first report of tet(W) in oral bacteria and the first report to show that tet(O), tet(Q), tet(A), and tet(S) can be found in some oral species.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Dental Plaque / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Mouth / microbiology*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Saliva / microbiology
  • Tetracycline Resistance / genetics*
  • Tetracyclines / pharmacology


  • Tetracyclines