A cluster of antibiotic-resistant bacteria called Campylobacter coli has been found in men who have sex with men (MSM) in Seattle and Montreal, researchers report in a new study. A cluster is a group of strains that are very closely genetically related.

One of the bacterial strains appears to have acquired a new gene that made it able to resist antibiotics via the DNA sequences known as CRISPR, for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. [Editor’s note: This is different from the gene-editing technology.]  It is the first time that a CRISPR-acquired antibiotic-resistance gene has been identified in a clinical sample, the researchers said.

The journal Clinical Infectious Disease published the finding this month. The lead author was Dr. Alex Greninger, assistant professor of laboratory medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Bacteria acquire CRISPR sequences from infecting viruses called bacteriophages, which insert fragments of DNA into bacterial genomes. In this case the CRISPR sequence appears to have included the drug-resistance gene.

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