Scientists discovered Antibiotic-resistant bacteria in 4 million years old cave

Scientists discovered Antibiotic-resistant bacteria in 4 million years old cave

April 14, 2012: Scientists have likely found an answer to the failure of modern drugs in treating some infections in a 4 million years old cave, which is 487 meters below the earth. The researchers have discovered the drug resistance which has been around forever in the Lachuguilla cave system at the Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.

Many may have blamed the overuse of the antibiotics by us, albeit it seems that drug resistance of bacteria came into being naturally million years ago. Although the cave coated with the ancient bacteria never came in contact with the modern medicine, these bacteria can still fight back various kinds of antibiotics – including synthetic drugs.

“Clinical microbiologists have been perplexed for the longest time. When you bring a new antibiotic into the hospital, resistance inevitably appears shortly thereafter, within months to years,” said Gerry Wright, a lead researcher and chemical biologist at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. “It’s still a big question – Where is this coming from?” Wright added. “Almost no one thought to look at other bacteria, the ones that don’t necessarily cause disease.”

As per the Wright’s new study published in the April 11 issue of PLoS One, the 93 bacteria types discovered in the cave were tested against 26 different antibiotics to find out  how many can resist the antibiotic drugs. About 70% bacteria were capable enough to resist three or four types of antibiotics. Moreover, three bacteria related to anthrax could resist 14 different bacteria types. The findings clearly points out that the drug resistance is millions of years old phenomenon. “This supports a growing understanding that antibiotic resistance is natural, ancient, and hard wired in the microbial pangenome,” the authors of the study wrote.

However, the only question that arises is – Does this indicate that antibiotics’ overuse are not to be blamed? Recently in March 2012, the director-general of World Health Organization (WHO) Dr. Margaret Chan addressing to an audience at a Copenhagen symposium said that the antibiotics’ overuse could make it happen that someday a common thing like a “scratched knee could once again kill” due to these ‘superbugs’.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also stepped in recently to stop the overuse of antibiotics in agricultural activities to prevent resistance by asking the drug companies to stop antibiotics’ use voluntarily in livestock feed.

However, the authors of the study claim that the role of the antibiotic overuse has not been disapproved by the new evidence, but emphasizes that the people must be careful with type of antibiotics they are using. “This fact further underlines the importance of the judicious use of antibiotics to avoid selection of existing resistance elements and their subsequent mobilization through microbial communities thereby limiting the effectiveness of these drugs to treat infectious diseases,” the authors’ wrote.

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