Antimicrobial metal ion resistance and its impact on co-selection of antibiotic resistance

Culture Volume 37 Number 1

Jon Hobman1

Antimicrobial metal ion resistance and its impact on co-selection of antibiotic resistance 

There is a growing body of evidence that biocide and antimicrobial metal use may be contributing to the antibiotic resistance problem.

Jon Hobman, Associate Professor of Microbiology, University of Nottingham, UK, explains the mechanisms of metal ion resistance, the link between metal ion resistance and antibiotic resistance, and how increasing the use of non-antibiotic antimicrobials in order to compensate for reduced antibiotic usage may drive co-selection of resistance.

  Read the full article

1. School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus Sutton Bonington, Leicestershire, LE12 5RD, UK.

Culture microbiology reviews subscription

Culture microbiology reviews subscription

Be the first to know when the next edition is out.

Culture has been providing informative insights into developments in microbiology since 1979—with topics and contributory authors from all fields of microbiology.

Subscribe today

About the author


Jon Hobman obtained a PhD from the University of Liverpool, UK, studying mercury resistance in environmental bacteria. He then joined Professor Nigel Brown’s laboratory at the University of Birmingham, UK, to undertake a postdoc on mechanisms and regulation of bacterial metal ion resistance. After several projects on gene regulation and E. coli pathotypes, and a fixed-term lectureship at Birmingham, he moved to the University of Nottingham in 2007. Jon is currently an Associate Professor of Microbiology in the School of Biosciences, and course manager for the BSc Microbiology degree.

Jon’s research interests focus on bacterial metal ion homeostasis and antimicrobial metal ion resistance mechanisms, and gene regulation, as well as antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance in the environment. He is increasingly interested in the linkage of antimicrobial metal ion resistance to antibiotic resistance carried on mobile genetic elements, especially in livestock associated enterobacteria.

I saw a PhD studentship advertised at Liverpool University on environmental mercury resistant bacteria from the River Mersey, supervised by Professors Don Ritchie and Pete Strike. I thought that the mercury resistance mechanism was so remarkable, and the project so interesting, that I applied for the studentship and was lucky enough to get it. I then had an opportunity to work as a postdoc on different metal resistance projects at Birmingham University, and I have been fortunate enough to be able to carry on working in an area I find fascinating. I have worked with some outstanding people from all over the World whose ideas have greatly influenced me. 

We are currently researching antimicrobial resistance in bacteria isolated from livestock manures and slurries, and are interested in the drivers of resistance and risks associated with resistance. We are also studying mechanisms of copper, silver, and other metal ion resistances, and regulation of them.

There is a lot of interest currently in the idea that co-selection of antibiotic resistance is occurring due to the use of other antimicrobials but there are many gaps in our knowledge about the importance of co-selection, and mechanisms that could be promoting it.

For me, it is the widespread distribution of antimicrobial resistance genes that we find in bacteria isolated from environments associated with humans and animals.

When we realize that we have found out something new from our experimental work.

My job is a research and teaching position, so a typical work day could include undergraduate teaching, project/student/postdoc supervision, and lab meetings. Writing grant applications/reports, papers, reading theses and teaching or research administration are also part of what I do. However, no two days are the same—but I’d like to spend more time in the lab than I do…

Antimicrobial resistance is a complex, multifactorial problem. Understanding what factors are promoting the spread of resistance will be important in informing what we can do to ameliorate the problem.