FDA Launches Interactive Tool for Antibiotic Resistance Genes


Public health officials and veterinarians can now access the first visual representation of antibiotic resistance genes in bacteria. With this new tool, researchers can be alerted to new resistance traits and can even track antibiotic resistance in foodborne bacteria.

A new tool that provides visually informative displays of antibiotic resistance genes in bacteria is now publicly available.

The Resistome Tracker was launched by the US Food and Drug Administration this week to aid researchers who are using new genomics technologies to track and treat infectious diseases.

Credit: www.fda.gov

Currently, users can explore antibiotic resistance alleles present in the genomes of Salmonella submitted to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), but future iterations of the tool will include data on other microorganisms, such as Escherichia coli and Campylobacter.

Salmonella genome sequences are uploaded to the tracker on a weekly basis, and whole-genome sequencing data on more than 97,000 genomes from NCBI have already been uploaded. Of these genomes, 27,512 are US isolates and 8900 are isolates from the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System.

The Resistome Tracker enables monitoring of antibiotic resistance in foodborne bacteria simply by examining the DNA, and researchers can be alerted to new resistance traits as they emerge in a specified region or source.

The expanded version of this tracker may have aided those affected by the recent multistate Campylobacter outbreak that infected more than 65 people in 15 states due to exposure to infected puppies.

The Resistome Tracker can be used to:

  • Customize visualizations by antibiotic drug class
  • Compare resistance genes across different sources
  • Identify new resistance genes
  • Map selected resistance genes to geographic location

Getting this type of information, such as the different traits in microorganisms, was not possible previously.

Besides microorganism data, the FDA notes that additional gene categories—such as serotype, sequence type, and virulence genes—will be added in future iterations of the tool.

According to an FDA press release, the “Resistome Tracker represents a major step forward in resistance monitoring that will enhance the scientific foundation for the FDA and others when evaluating the impact of antibiotic use on the evolution and spread of resistance.”

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