June 25, 2021

Katrina DeWitt (Duke University)

Climate-driven shifts in the prevalence of antibiotic resistance genes

Spring 2021 Graduate Student Award in Pathogenic and Commensal Organisms


Antibiotic resistance (ABR) occurs when disease-causing bacteria survive antibiotic treatments. ABR is on the rise and may potentially be worsened by global climate change. Increasing temperature has been linked to increased bacterial infection rates, an increase in the presence of infectious bacterial agents, and an increase in bacterial ability to gain ABR through evolution. However, a deeper understanding of the evolutionary and ecological processes that influence the prevalence of ABR in the wild is still lacking. Here, I propose to study how environmental factors and temperature may select for bacteria that have ABR. Identifying environmental factors that can lead to increased ABR in bacteria is essential to mitigate the healthcare consequences of ABR and predict the location of novel ABR outbreaks. To do this, I will sample bacterial communities known to show high levels of ABR across a natural temperature gradient in a plant analog of the human gut: carnivorous pitcher plants.