Michael Gillings

Event Date: 
Wednesday, August 27, 2014 - 19:00 - 20:00
Institution: 
Macquarie University
Title: 

"Xenbiotics and Xenogenetics: Human Influence over Microbial Evolution"

Abstract: 

The extent of human effects on planetary and biological processes means that we are now the world’s greatest evolutionary force. Perhaps the best example of human driven selection is the rapid evolution of antibiotic resistance in a wide range of bacterial pathogens. Continued antibiotic use has resulted in the assembly of complex DNA molecules composed of diverse resistance determinants and mobile elements, each with independent phylogenetic origins. These novel plasmids, transposons, integrons and genomic islands are xenogenetic, in that they have arisen in human-dominated ecosystems as a direct result of human activity. Xenogenetic elements are being released via human waste streams along with significant quantities of selective agents and other xenobiotic compounds, creating environmental reactors that foster even more complex interactions between genes, mobile elements and diverse bacterial species. Saturation of the environment with selective agents is also likely to increase the basal rates of mutation, recombination and lateral gene transfer in all bacterial species. Consequently, the antibiotic revolution may now be having unintended, second order consequences that will affect the entire microbial biosphere.