Diversity of Proteus bacteria in humans and the environment and their role in the spread of antibiotic resistance
Proteus bacteria have now successfully established themselves in various ecological niches – be it in water, soil or in the digestive tracts of humans and animals. However, some representatives of Proteus bacteria can have a pathogenic effect on people who are already in poor health and can lead to serious urinary tract and bloodstream infections, which are often difficult to treat due to antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The rise of AMR has become a global health problem, leading to treatment failure, high treatment costs, and increasing mortality. Animal husbandry in particular could play a special role in the transmission of resistance genes from animals to humans and in the spread of Proteus bacteria. The reserve antibiotic colistin is frequently used in these cases, to which Proteus is intrinsically resistant and is selected for through its use.
The project looks at the biodiversity and occurrence of Proteus bacteria in various hosts (humans, livestock, and wild animals) and in the environment in northern Germany. The exact epidemiology is currently unknown, as most Proteus species cannot be distinguished using standard methods. BIOPAR will characterize samples with AMR using state-of-the-art sequencing methods and apply phylogenetic (lineage) analyses to uncover the spread of Proteus. As a result, risk factors will be identified that are crucial for the transmission of AMR-carrying Proteus strains to humans. In addition, new identification algorithms will be developed that can be used to differentiate between the various Proteus species.
BIOPAR can not only contribute to a better implementation of infection prevention and control strategies, but also integrates ideally into the One Health approach to achieve optimal health for humans, animals, and our environment.