The focus of this research program has been to assess the factors that influence horizontal gene transfer of antibiotic resistance and virulence genes among bacteria of varying relatedness. In this context, the pressures influencing the movement and stability of genes represent an ecosystem-based problem, being influenced by agricultural practices, hydrology, land-use, socioeconomics, and other biotic and abiotic factors. Many of these factors are affected by anthropogenic changes to the environment. This project involves a detailed look at the role of plasmids in the movement of genes among bacteria in the natural ecosystem. The studies will address the hypothesis that environmental factors are capable of influencing the evolution of bacterial plasmids, and that this evolution can have significant human and animal health impacts.
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