UNESCO Code: 2511.09, 241401, 241408
Microbial Communities, Antibiotic Resistance, Ecology, Microbial Biotechnology, Bioremediation
Relevant characteristics of the research group (description of the group's activity):
Bacteria are present in all habitats, accounting for the majority of the biomass of our planet. Microbial activities underpin the Earth's biogeochemical cycles; carbon, phosphorus, nitrogen, sulphur, ... Microbial metabolic activities are also exceptionally varied, some of them being unique to the prokaryotic world. The biotechnological exploitation of microorganisms will not only favour a higher degree of development and well-being, but will also allow the recovery of environments degraded by inappropriate uses in the past.
Some types of microorganisms are the cause of plant and animal diseases, as well as diseases that affect human beings. Antibiotic resistance (AR), increasingly present in a greater number of bacteria, entail an important threat for human health and the development of some countries and regions in the world. In this sense, the Spanish Society of Infectious Diseases and Clinical Microbiology (Sociedad Española de Enfermedades Infecciosas y Microbiología Clínica) set forth in 2018 that these bacteria cause therapeutic failure and death in about 35.000 people every year in Spain.
The selective pressure carried out by antimicrobial agents refers to the Darwinian process of natural selection of resistant strains in presence of an external selective pressure, such as the presence of an antimicrobial agent. This does not occur exclusively in the human body, but also occurs in bacteria in ecosystems that may be potential human pathogens or transfer resistance to commensal micro-organisms through horizontal transmission mechanisms via mobile gene elements.
Soil is one of the main reservoirs of AR genes, so animals and plants intended for human consumption and in close contact with these environments are important reservoirs of AR bacteria and genes.
As a research group we focus on the selection and study of plant growth promoting strains, as well as their potential bioremediation use in contaminated environments, considering AR as an essential environmental variable.
In order to favour the permanence of beneficial bacteria in the environment, it is essential to know aspects related to microbial ecology, such as the structure of communities (microbiome), the relationships between microorganisms, their interaction with the environment... Unfortunately, there are many AR mechanisms dispersed in natural environments that compromise some of the biological recovery actions of soils. Therefore, the study of the possible environmental origin of AR and its transmission within complex environmental microbial communities (soils, water...), as well as the metabolic activity of environmental microbial communities from a functional perspective, aims to understand whether different external stressors (irrigation with water of different nature, fertilisation, types of crop management, livestock diets...) affect the expression and survival of AR.
Our research group has developed a method known as "c2eno-antibiogram", which consists of understanding the antibiotic resistance of microbial communities by adapting techniques commonly used for the study of antibiograms. We are trying to generate new working methodologies that allow us to know in greater detail, for example, the state of soil quality by means of bioindicators, to study the degree of success of different ecosystem recovery treatments.