The phylum Firmicutes is one of the most abundant groups of prokaryotes in the microbiota of humans and animals and includes genera of outstanding relevance in biomedicine, health care, and industry. Antimicrobial drug resistance is now considered a global health security challenge of the 21st century, and this heterogeneous group of microorganisms represents a significant part of this public health issue. The presence of the same resistant genes in unrelated bacterial genera indicates a complex history of genetic interactions. Plasmids have largely contributed to the spread of resistance genes among Staphylococcus, Enterococcus, and Streptococcus species, also influencing the selection and ecological variation of specific populations. However, this information is fragmented and often omits species outside these genera. To date, the antimicrobial resistance problem has been analyzed under a “single centric” perspective (“gene tracking” or “vehicle centric” in “single host-single pathogen” systems) that has greatly delayed the understanding of gene and plasmid dynamics and their role in the evolution of bacterial communities. This work analyzes the dynamics of antimicrobial resistance genes using gene exchange networks; the role of plasmids in the emergence, dissemination, and maintenance of genes encoding resistance to antimicrobials (antibiotics, heavy metals, and biocides); and their influence on the genomic diversity of the main Gram-positive opportunistic pathogens under the light of evolutionary ecology. A revision of the approaches to categorize plasmids in this group of microorganisms is given using the 1,326 fully sequenced plasmids of Gram-positive bacteria available in the GenBank database at the time the article was written.
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