Background: Antimicrobial-resistant bacteria and their antimicrobial resistance (AMR) genes can spread by hitchhiking in human guts. International travel can exacerbate this public health threat when travelers acquire AMR genes endemic to their destinations and bring them back to their home countries. Prior studies have demonstrated travel-related acquisition of specific opportunistic pathogens and AMR genes, but the extent and magnitude of travel's effects on the gut resistome remain largely unknown.
Methods: Using whole metagenomic shotgun sequencing, functional metagenomics, and Dirichlet multinomial mixture models, we investigated the abundance, diversity, function, resistome architecture, and context of AMR genes in the fecal microbiomes of 190 Dutch individuals, before and after travel to diverse international locations.
Results: Travel markedly increased the abundance and alpha-diversity of AMR genes in the travelers' gut resistome, and we determined that 56 unique AMR genes showed significant acquisition following international travel. These acquisition events were biased towards AMR genes with efflux, inactivation, and target replacement resistance mechanisms. Travel-induced shaping of the gut resistome had distinct correlations with geographical destination, so individuals returning to The Netherlands from the same destination country were more likely to have similar resistome features. Finally, we identified and detailed specific acquisition events of high-risk, mobile genetic element-associated AMR genes including qnr fluoroquinolone resistance genes, bla(CTX-M) family extended-spectrum beta-lactamases, and the plasmid-borne mcr-1 colistin resistance gene.
Conclusions: Our results show that travel shapes the architecture of the human gut resistome and results in AMR gene acquisition against a variety of antimicrobial drug classes. These broad acquisitions highlight the putative risks that international travel poses to public health by gut resistome perturbation and the global spread of locally endemic AMR genes.
- ANTIMICROBIAL RESISTANCE
- Antibiotic resistance
- GUT MICROBIOTA
- LACTAMASE-PRODUCING ENTEROBACTERIACEAE
- mcr-1 beta-Lactamases