Living with sulfonamides: a diverse range of mechanisms observed in bacteria

Olga C. Nunes*, Célia M. Manaia, Boris A. Kolvenbach, Philippe F.X. Corvini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract: Sulfonamides are the oldest class of synthetic antibiotics still in use in clinical and veterinary settings. The intensive utilization of sulfonamides has been leading to the widespread contamination of the environment with these xenobiotic compounds. Consequently, in addition to pathogens and commensals, also bacteria inhabiting a wide diversity of environmental compartments have been in contact with sulfonamides for almost 90 years. This review aims at giving an overview of the effect of sulfonamides on bacterial cells, including the strategies used by bacteria to cope with these bacteriostatic agents. These include mechanisms of antibiotic resistance, co-metabolic transformation, and partial or total mineralization of sulfonamides. Possible implications of these mechanisms on the ecosystems and dissemination of antibiotic resistance are also discussed. Key points: • Sulfonamides are widespread xenobiotic pollutants; • Target alteration is the main sulfonamide resistance mechanism observed in bacteria; • Sulfonamides can be modified, degraded, or used as nutrients by some bacteria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10389-10408
Number of pages20
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Biodegradation
  • Biotransformation
  • Xenobiotic


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