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Summary

By integrating sequence similarity data of plasmid-encoded antibiotic resistance determinants with those coming from a less transferred molecular marker, we constructed a network in which all the sequences that most likely underwent horizontal gene transfer (HGT) were linked together. The analysis of this network revealed that either geographical barriers or taxonomical distance can often be overcome since phylogenetically unrelated bacteria, and/or those inhabiting distinct environments, were found to share common antibiotic resistance determinants, probably as a result of (one or multiple) HGT event(s). Data obtained also revealed that bacteria viable through multiple environments (ubiquitous) are likely to give a crucial contribution to the spreading of bacterial resistance towards antimicrobial compounds. These analyses represent a first attempt to give an almost global picture of the horizontal flow of antibiotic resistance determinants at the whole bacterial community level, also underlining the power of HGT among bacteria and how this ‘horizontal flow’ is poorly affected by both taxonomy and physical distance. Finally, data presented may be useful in the infections control procedures, suggesting which bacterial species are more likely acting as vectors of antibiotic resistance determinants.