The peril and promise of integrons

beyond antibiotic resistance

Timothy M. Ghaly*, Jemma L. Geoghegan, Sasha G. Tetu, Michael R. Gillings

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

7 Citations (Scopus)


Integrons are bacterial genetic elements that can capture, rearrange, and express mobile gene cassettes. They are best known for their role in disseminating antibiotic-resistance genes among pathogens. Their ability to rapidly spread resistance phenotypes makes it important to consider what other integron-mediated traits might impact human health in the future, such as increased virulence, pathogenicity, or resistance to novel antimicrobial strategies. Exploring the functional diversity of cassettes and understanding their de novo creation will allow better pre-emptive management of bacterial growth, while also facilitating development of technologies that could harness integron activity. If we can control integrons and cassette formation, we could use integrons as a platform for enzyme discovery and to construct novel biochemical pathways, with applications in bioremediation or biosynthesis of industrial and therapeutic molecules. Integron activity thus holds both peril and promise for humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-464
Number of pages10
JournalTrends in Microbiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • biotechnology
  • evolution
  • pathogenicity
  • synthetic biology
  • virulence

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