Rice University scientists have found that minor mutations in bacterial DNA can lead to major increases in antibiotic resistance.
The discovery came from a study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, where scientists attempted to create a mathematical formula able to predict how specific mutations allow E. Coli to become resistant to antibiotics, like minocycline.
In order to do this, scientists studied seven variants of the TetX2 gene that conferred resistance to minocycline. They cataloged basic biochemical measurements for each mutant, and from this data were able to make a mathematical formula that correlated E. Coli anti-biotic resistance with enzyme performance. They were able to use the formula to accurately predict anti-biotic resistance in a new family of mutants based upon biochemical performance measurements.
During the course of building the formula, the scientists found that relatively minor mutations of the gene under study conferred increased anti-biotic resistance. These findings could have several implications for the effort to combat anti-biotic resistant strains of bacteria, such as MRSA. The formula itself could be used to quickly screen for resistant bacteria strains. Also, the findings could lead to new avenues of research into just how resistance arises, which could hypothetically lead to new drugs able to circumvent said resistances.