Strategies to combat antimicrobial resistance: anti-plasmid and plasmid curing

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Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global problem hindering treatment of bacterial infections, rendering many aspects of modern medicine less effective. AMR genes (ARGs) are frequently located on plasmids, which are self-replicating elements of DNA. They are often transmissible between bacteria, and some have spread globally. Novel strategies to combat AMR are needed, and plasmid curing and anti-plasmid approaches could reduce ARG prevalence, and sensitise bacteria to antibiotics. We discuss the use of curing agents as laboratory tools including chemicals (e.g. detergents and intercalating agents), drugs used in medicine including ascorbic acid, psychotropic drugs (e.g. chlorpromazine), antibiotics (e.g. aminocoumarins, quinolones and rifampicin) and plant-derived compounds. Novel strategies are examined; these include conjugation inhibitors (e.g. TraE inhibitors, linoleic, oleic, 2-hexadecynoic and tanzawaic acids), systems designed around plasmid incompatibility, phages and CRISPR/Cas-based approaches. Currently, there is a general lack of in vivo curing options. This review highlights this important shortfall, which if filled could provide a promising mechanism to reduce ARG prevalence in humans and animals. Plasmid curing mechanisms which are not suitable for in vivo use could still prove important for reducing the global burden of AMR, as high levels of ARGs exist in the environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)781–804
JournalFEMS Microbiology Reviews
Issue number6
Early online date30 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • antimicrobial resistance
  • plasmid
  • plasmid curing
  • CRISPR/Cas
  • antibiotics
  • conjugation inhibitors


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