‘To be, or not to be’—The dilemma of ‘silent’ antimicrobial resistance genes in bacteria

Vijaya Kumar Deekshit, Shabarinath Srikumar

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    17 Citations (Scopus)


    Antimicrobial resistance is a serious threat to public health that dramatically undermines our ability to treat bacterial infections. Microorganisms exhibit resistance to different drug classes by acquiring resistance determinants through multiple mechanisms including horizontal gene transfer. The presence of drug resistance genotypes is mostly associated with corresponding phenotypic resistance against the particular antibiotic. However, bacterial communities harbouring silent antimicrobial resistance genes—genes whose presence is not associated with a corresponding resistant phenotype do exist. Under suitable conditions, the expression pattern of such genes often revert and regain resistance and could potentially lead to therapeutic failure. We often miss the presence of silent genes, since the current experimental paradigms are focused on resistant strains. Therefore, the knowledge on the prevalence, importance and mechanism of silent antibiotic resistance genes in bacterial pathogens are very limited. Silent genes, therefore, provide an additional level of complexity in the war against drug-resistant bacteria, reminding us that not only phenotypically resistant strains but also susceptible strains should be carefully investigated. In this review, we discuss the presence of silent antimicrobial resistance genes in bacteria, their relevance and their importance in public health.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2902-2914
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of Applied Microbiology
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


    • antimicrobial resistance
    • cryptic genes
    • gene expression
    • gene silencing
    • silent genes

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Biotechnology
    • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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