Microbiomes and Antimicrobial Resistance

Micro-organisms – bacteria, viruses, fungi – reside in diverse and heavily populated communities on the skin and mucous membranes of animals, including humans. These microbes maintain intimate and often mutually beneficial relationships between themselves and their animal hosts. The vast community of bacteria residing in the digestive tract can undergo significant changes over the lifespan of animals and people, and these changes can affect the host’s overall health and development. Drugs, particularly antimicrobial agents, can contribute to these bacterial community shifts, but their widespread use in food animals can contribute to increased microbial drug resistance. Similarly, excessive antibiotic use by people can fight disease, but can also lead to the emergence of drug-resistant microbes.

Through genomic analyses and mathematical modeling, Microbiome/Antibiotic Resistance cluster faculty have expertise in characterizing the intestinal bacteria, viruses and the small DNA molecules that transfer antibiotic resistance among bacteria in food animals. They are discovering how changes in the gut microbial community affect animal growth and well-being. Their research contributes to the development of antibiotic alternatives, such as new probiotics.