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DNA: The Blueprint of Life and the Link to Antimicrobial Resistance

DNA, the fundamental thread in the tapestry of existence, takes center stage as we commemorate DNA Day. As we celebrate DNA Day, we pay homage to the fascinating molecule that encapsulates the essence of being and serves as the base of biological and microbiological understanding. 


First discovered in 1953 by James Watson, Francis Crick, Maurice Wilkins, and Rosalind Franklin1, DNA's double helix structure marked a watershed moment in scientific exploration.

In this blogpost, we explore the significance of DNA in understanding the microbial world of bacteria and its connection to emerging drug resistant organisms. We will also delve into the science of UV-C light technology as it is used to defend against drug resistant bacterial contamination on environmental surfaces. 


The Double Helix

LDNA consists of two long polypeptide chains arranged in a double helix. Each chain comprises nucleotide units linked together. A nucleotide consists of three main components:

  • A deoxyribose sugar molecule
  • A phosphate group
  • One of four nitrogenous bases – adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), or thymine (T). 
The nitrogenous bases on opposite DNA strands pair up via hydrogen bonds: adenine (A) with thymine (T) and cytosine (C) with guanine (G). This base pairing is crucial for DNA replication and stability. The hydrogen bondbetween complementary base pairs holds the two DNA strands together, while covalent bonds link nucleotides together along each strand, forming a stable backbone. This backbone provides structural support for the DNA molecule.2

Bacteria harbor their genetic codes within nucleotides in their cytoplasm. The DNA may be found in a single circular chromosome, within a couple of chromosomes, or small DNA molecules called plasmids. The DNA sequence has been determined for hundreds of bacteria and the amount of DNA pairs have been estimated at 4,700,000 base pairs in Escherichia coli to over 13 million base pairs in a myxobacterium named Sorangium cellulosum (a soil dwelling gram negative bacterium)3. Bacterial DNA is transferred during the replication process, but can also be shared with other types of bacteria as well by various methods. 

The ability of bacteria to share genetic material with others is an avenue for bacteria to adapt to changes in environmental conditions. This process also contributes to the increase in antimicrobial resistance in bacteria as well. Genes are carried on plasmids which are incorporated into chromosomes. Transmitted plasmids that carry genes for drug resistance enzymes is a major reason for resistance to be spread from one bacterial species to another.4

The Challenge of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

Prior to the onset of antibiotic development in the 1940’s, there were no drug resistant bacteria. Now antimicrobial resistance has become a global public health threat. Since antimicrobial resistance can affect people at any stage of life and also have an impact on multiple industries (i.e. hospitality, veterinary, agriculture and more), it has elevated to be one of the most urgent public health threats in the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 2.8 million antimicrobial resistant infections occur each year with mortality associated with approximately 35,000 people in the United States alone.5
A multi-pronged approach to combat antimicrobial resistance has been strongly promoted throughout countries, supported by governments, and is a strong focus in today’s healthcare. Three categories of action have been outlined to include:

  • Prevent infections
  • Improve antimicrobial use to slow resistance
  • Stop the transmission of resistant organisms

    Studies have shown that environmental surfaces can harbor various strains of bacteria, including antibiotic resistant bacteria, for days, weeks, and even months unless meticulous cleaning and disinfection protocols are followed. Increased interest in the importance of cleaning and disinfection became apparent during the worldwide pandemic a few years ago. The use of ultraviolet C light (UV-C) for disinfection protocols resurfaced even though this modality has been around for many years.


The Impact of Ultraviolet-C on Microorganisms

Full circle to bacterial DNA: it may be a source of creating antibiotic resistance, but it can also be the demise of it as well. As UV-C light is irradiated onto environmental surfaces, as the final step of cleaning and disinfection, the UV-C is absorbed into the bacterial DNA that may still be present on the surface. The UV-C energy fuses components of the nucleic acid to form dimers which alter the mechanism of bacteri

al replication. This action halts proliferation of newer generations of bacteria, effectively stopping the spread of the resistant organism. The use of UV-C has been brought into disinfection protocols in many industries. The technology has grown in development in recent years from historical stationary devices to robotic autonomous devices. The use of UV-C is just one tool in reducing the bioburden in various environments, encompassing microorganisms resistant to antibiotics as well. 

World DNA Day

DNA is indeed one of the most profound threads in the tapestry of existence. From the beginning of life to the impact on death in both human and microbial species. The genetic code creates individualism with the ability to adapt and change. As the world celebrates the artistry of DNA on this day, take the opportunity to appreciate the world that we live in for tomorrow may bring relative change. 





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1. Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2023, January 6). Who discovered the structure of DNA?. Encyclopedia Britannica.

2. Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, et al. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 4th edition. New York: Garland Science, 2002. The Structure and Function of DNA. Available from: