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mBio. Honeybees and Tetracycline Resistance

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  • mBio. Honeybees and Tetracycline Resistance

    [Source: mBio, full text: (LINK). Abstract, edited.]
    Honeybees and Tetracycline Resistance

    Stuart B. Levy, Bonnie M. Marshall

    Author Affiliations: School of Medicine, Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

    Address correspondence to Stuart B. Levy,


    Like animals and people, insects can serve as both collectors and disseminators of antibiotic resistance genes, as exquisitely demonstrated by a recent study (B. Tian, N. H. Fadhil, J. E. Powell, W. K. Kwong, and N. A. Moran, mBio 3[6]:e00377-12, doi:10.1128/mBio.00377-12, 2012). Notably, the relatively confined ecosystem of the honeybee gut demonstrates a large propensity for harboring a diverse set of tetracycline resistance genes that reveal the environmental burden resulting from the long-time selective pressures of tetracycline use in the honeybee industry. As in humans and animals, these genes have become established in the native, nonpathogenic flora of the insect gut, adding credence to the concept that commensal floras provide large reservoirs of resistance genes that can readily move into pathogenic species. The homology of these tetracycline resistance determinants with those found in tetracycline-resistant bacteria associated with animals and humans strongly suggests a dissemination of similar or identical genes through shared ecosystems. The emergence of linked coresistances (ampicillin and tetracycline) following single-antibiotic therapy mirrors reports from other studies, namely, that long-term, single-agent therapy will result in resistance to multiple drugs. These results contrast with the marked absence of diverse, single- and multiple-drug resistance genes in wild and domestic bees that are not subjected to such selective pressures. Prospective studies that simultaneously track both resistance genes and antibiotic residues will go far in resolving some of the nagging questions that cloud our understanding of antibiotic resistance dissemination.

    The views expressed in this Commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of the journal or of ASM.


    Citation Levy SB, Marshall BM. 2013. Honeybees and tetracycline resistance. mBio 4(1):e00045-13. doi:10.1128/mBio.00045-13.

    Received 18 January 2013 - Accepted 22 January 2013 - Published 12 February 2013 - Copyright 2013 Levy and Marshall.

    This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license, which permits unrestricted noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.