Microbiome as a tool and a target in the effort to address antimicrobial resistance

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Dec 18;115(51):12902-12910. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1717163115.


Reciprocal, intimate relationships between the human microbiome and the host immune system are shaped by past microbial encounters and prepare the host for future ones. Antibiotics and other antimicrobials leave their mark on both the microbiome and host immunity. Antimicrobials alter the structure of the microbiota, expand the host-specific pool of antimicrobial-resistance genes and organisms, degrade the protective effects of the microbiota against invasion by pathogens, and may impair vaccine efficacy. Through these effects on the microbiome they may affect immune responses. Vaccines that exert protective or therapeutic effects against pathogens may reduce the use of antimicrobials, the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance, and the harmful impacts of these drugs on the microbiome. Other strategies involving manipulation of the microbiome to deplete antibiotic-resistant organisms or to enhance immune responses to vaccines may prove valuable in addressing antimicrobial resistance as well. This article describes the intersections of immunity, microbiome and antimicrobial exposure, and the use of vaccines and other alternative strategies for the control and management of antimicrobial resistance.

Keywords: antibacterial agents; drug resistance; horizontal gene transfer; immune system; microbiota.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Communicable Disease Control / methods*
  • Communicable Diseases / drug therapy
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial / drug effects*
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial / genetics
  • Host Microbial Interactions / drug effects
  • Host Microbial Interactions / genetics
  • Host Microbial Interactions / immunology
  • Humans
  • Microbiota / drug effects*
  • Vaccines / therapeutic use*


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Vaccines