The journal Clinical Infectious Disease recently published findings showing that a cluster of antibiotic-resistant bacteria called Campylobacter coli has been found in a number of men who have sex with men (MSM) in Seattle, Wa., and Montreal, Canada.
According to researchers, one of the bacterial strains has acquired a new gene that makes it able to resist antibiotics via the DNA sequences known as CRISPR, Clustered Regularly Interspaced Shortchanged Palindromic Repeats. (Not to be confused with the gene-editing technology also known as CRISPR.)
“Bacteria acquire CRISPR sequences from infecting viruses called bacteriophages, which insert fragments of DNA into bacterial genomes,” the University of Washington School of Medicine reported in a news release. “In this case the CRISPR sequence appears to have included the drug-resistance gene.”
The study, led by Dr. Alex Greninger, assistant professor of laboratory medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, discovered nearly identical bacteria among these unrelated populations, suggesting that it is being transmitted by men who have sex with men.
Campylobacter is one of the most common causes of diarrhea around the world. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it impacts 1.3 million people in the United States every year. People usually recover without treatment, but for those with serious cases, antibiotics are used. However, this new strain is resistant to those antibiotics.
“Enteric infections can be sexually-transmitted infections,” Greninger said in a release. “The international spread of related isolates among MSM populations has been shown before for Shigella, so it makes sense to see it in Campylobacter, as well.”
Men who have sex with men, specifically, are at higher risk of multidrug-resistance because they’re more likely to have taken antibiotics to treat past STIs, the authors state.
While STI rates have increased significantly over the last few years, less is known about STIs with enteric bacteria.
“The global emergence of multidrug-resistant enteric pathogens in MSM poses an urgent public health challenge that may require new approaches for surveillance and prevention,” they wrote.