Indexed on: 15 Feb '16Published on: 15 Feb '16Published in: Journal of medical entomology
Cockroaches, insects of the order Blattodea, seem to play a crucial role in the possible conjugation-mediated genetic exchanges that occur among bacteria that harbor in the cockroach intestinal tract. The gut of these insects can be thought of as an effective in vivo model for the natural transfer of antimicrobial resistance plasmids among bacteria. In our study, we evaluated the conjugation-mediated horizontal transfer of resistance genes between Escherichia coli and other microorganisms of the same Enterobacteriaceae family within the intestinal tract of Blaberus craniifer Burmeister, 1838 (Blattodea: Blaberidae). Different in vivo mating experiments were performed using E. coli RP4 harboring the RP4 plasmid carrying ampicillin, kanamycin, and tetracycline resistance genes as the donor and E. coli K12 resistant to nalidixic acid or Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis IMM39 resistant to streptomycin as the recipients. The RP4 plasmid was successfully transferred to both recipients, producing E. coli K12-RP4 and S. Enteritidis IMM39-RP4 transconjugants. Conjugation frequencies in vivo were similar to those previously observed in vitro. The transfer of the RP4 plasmid in all transconjugants was confirmed by small-scale plasmid isolation and agar gel electrophoresis, suggesting that the intestinal tract of cockroaches is an effective in vivo model for natural gene transfer. Our results confirm that cockroaches allow for the exchange of antimicrobial resistance plasmids among bacteria and may represent a potential reservoir for the dissemination of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in different environments. These findings are particularly significant to human health in the context of health care settings such as hospitals.