Researchers have unlocked more information about how some bacteria manage to resist antibiotics.
They found 76 new types of resistance genes that make bacteria invulnerable to last-resort antibiotics.
Several of the genes give the bacteria its ability to protect against our most powerful antibiotics.
The findings meant scientists are one-step closer to finding a way of developing drugs to get rid of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
“The more we know about how bacteria can defend themselves against antibiotics, the better are our odds for developing effective, new drugs,” said co-author of the research from the University of Gothenburg, Joacim Larsson.
“Our study shows that there are lots of unknown resistance genes,” added Erik Kristiansson, researcher from Chalmers University of Technology.
“Knowledge about these genes makes it possible to more effectively find and hopefully tackle new forms of multi-resistant bacteria.
“Resistance genes are often very rare, and a lot of DNA data needs to be examined before a new gene can be found.”
The researchers analysed DNA sequences from bacteria collected from humans all over the world.
They looked for patterns in the DNA that were linked to antibiotic resistance.
Genes were then identified in the lab, and the scientists tested them with antibiotics to prove they were resistant to the medication.
A PhD student working on the study, Fanny Berglund, said: “Our methods are very efficient and can search for the specific patterns of novel resistance genes in large volumes of DNA sequence data.”
The researchers now want to look for genes that provide resistance to other types of antibiotics, they said.
Kristiansson said: “The novel genes we discovered are only the tip of the iceberg.
“There are still many unidentified antibiotic resistance genes that could become major global health problems in the future.”
According to Antibiotic Research UK, antibiotic-resistant sepsis – or blood poisoning – causes more than 44,000 deaths in the UK every year.