Antibiotic resistance plasmids and spatial structure

Steve Krone (September 16, 2011)

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Bacterial plasmids are circular extra-chromosomal genetic elements that code for simultaneous resistance to multiple antibiotics and are thought to be one of the most important factors in the alarmingly rapid loss of our arsenal of antimicrobial drugs. Plasmids propagate horizontally by infectious transfer, as well as vertically during cell division. Horizontal transfer requires contact between donor and recipient cells, and so spatial structure can play a key role in mediating the spread of antibiotic resistance genes. We will discuss ODE and stochastic spatial models of plasmid population dynamics, as well as empirical results. As an example of the effects of spatial structure, we will use the spatial model to evaluate the effectiveness of a commonly used estimate of plasmid transfer efficiency when applied to surface-associated populations.