Commonly Used Sweeteners May Promote Antibiotic Resistance
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Researchers have conducted a study showing that commonly used nonnutritive sweeteners can promote the spread of antibiotic-resistant genes in the intestine. The study found that the sweeteners saccharine, sucralose, aspartame, and acesulfame potassium all promoted horizontal transfer of the genes between bacteria in both environmental and clinical settings.

The sweeteners accelerated the exchange of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) via a process called conjugation. The genes are transferred from donor to recipient bacteria, which may then go on to develop multidrug resistance. The team used three model conjugation systems to investigate whether SAC, SUC, ASP, and ACE-K promote plasmid-mediated conjugative transfer in both environmental and clinical settings.

The researchers carried out whole-genome RNA sequencing analysis and measured changes in reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, the SOS response, and cell membrane permeability. All four sweeteners were found to promote plasmid-mediated conjugative transfer between the same bacteria and different phylogenetic strains.

Bacteria exposed to these compounds exhibited increases in ROS production, the SOS response, and conjugative ARG gene transfer at environmentally and clinically relevant concentrations. Cell membrane permeability, especially that of the donor, also played an important role in the frequency of conjugative transfer.

When the cell permeability of the donor was increased, a significant increase in conjugative transfer was observed. When the cell permeability of the recipient was increased, no significant change in conjugative transfer was observed.

Source:
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41396-021-00909-x
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