Soil microbiota represent one of the ancient evolutionary origins of antibiotic resistance and have been proposed as a reservoir of resistance genes available for exchange with clinical pathogens. Using a high-throughput functional metagenomic approach in conjunction with a pipeline for the de novo assembly of short-read sequence data from functional selections (termed PARFuMS), we provide evidence for recent exchange of antibiotic resistance genes between environmental bacteria and clinical pathogens. We describe multidrug-resistant soil bacteria containing resistance cassettes against five classes of antibiotics (β-lactams, aminoglycosides, amphenicols, sulfonamides, and tetracyclines) that have perfect nucleotide identity to genes from diverse human pathogens. This identity encompasses noncoding regions as well as multiple mobilization sequences, offering not only evidence of lateral exchange but also a mechanism by which antibiotic resistance disseminates.
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