Overview on the role of heavy metals tolerance on developing antibiotic resistance in both Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria

Arch Microbiol. 2021 Apr 2. doi: 10.1007/s00203-021-02275-w. Online ahead of print.


Environmental health is a critical concern, continuously contaminated by physical and biological components (viz., anthropogenic activity), which adversely affect on biodiversity, ecosystems and human health. Nonetheless, environmental pollution has great impact on microbial communities, especially bacteria, which try to evolve in changing environment. For instance, during the course of adaptation, bacteria easily become resistance to antibiotics and heavy metals. Antibiotic resistance genes are now one of the most vital pollutants, provided as a source of frequent horizontal gene transfer. In this review, the environmental cause of multidrug resistance (MDR) that was supposed to be driven by either heavy metals or combination of environmental factors was essentially reviewed, especially focussed on the correlation between accumulation of heavy metals and development of MDR by bacteria. This kind of correlation was seemed to be non-significant, i.e. paradoxical. Gram-positive bacteria accumulating much of toxic heavy metal (i.e. highly stress tolerance) were unlikely to become MDR, whereas Gram-negative bacteria that often avoid accumulation of toxic heavy metal by efflux pump systems were come out to be more prone to MDR. So far, other than antibiotic contaminant, no such available data strongly support the direct influence of heavy metals in bacterial evolution of MDR; combinations of factors may drive the evolution of antibiotic resistance. Therefore, Gram-positive bacteria are most likely to be an efficient member in treatment of industrial waste water, especially in the removal of heavy metals, perhaps inducing the less chance of antibiotic resistance pollution in the environment.

PMID:33811263 | DOI:10.1007/s00203-021-02275-w