Feeds

Bacteria isolated for four million years beat newest antibiotic

Ancient bacteria share genes with bugs exposed to modern medicine

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Bacteria found deep inside a cave that has had scant exposure to the outside world for at least four million years share some of the same antibiotic-resisting traits that other bugs are supposed to have developed in response to modern medicines.

That’s the finding of a new research article, Antibiotic Resistance Is Prevalent in an Isolated Cave Microbiome, which plumbed the depths of Lechuguilla Cave, a 200-kilometre long cave in New Mexico, USA, to find bacteria populations that have had little or no exposure to the outside world.

“The deep recesses of Lechuguilla Cave,” the article says, were “isolated from surface input for the past 4–7 million years, [and] therefore provide a unique environment to study the presence and prevalence of antibiotic resistance elements.” The areas of the cave chosen for collection of bacteria samples have been visited by humans, but only by 4-6 people, and the paper says “The cave’s geologic features, including the impermeable siltstone caprock which prevents rapid influx of surface water, great depth, and long isolation from the surface, rules out the possibility of exposure to anthropogenic use of antibiotics as well as antibiotic contamination through water bodies.”

An expedition to the caves harvested 93 different bacteria, many of which displayed resistance to antibiotics. Some were even resistant to daptomycin, a substance the article says is “the newest class of antibiotic approved for clinical use.”

“Like surface organisms, the majority of these strains were multidrug resistant indicating that antibiotic resistance is a common and widespread phenotype in pristine, unimpacted environments,” the paper says, but also notes “differences in the pattern of resistance” were evident between the cave-dwellers and bacteria that have been exposed to Register readers.

The article goes on to suggest that “The presence of multidrug resistant organisms even in this pristine environment reinforces the notion that the antibiotic resistome is an ancient and pervasive component of the microbial pangenome.” Further analysis showed that bacteria from the cave share genes with surface bacteria known to have developed antibiotic resistant traits.

In other words, bacteria are already good at battling antibiotics, so it’s not entirely safe to assume anthropogenic antibiotics have created an evolutionary hothouse that forces bacteria to defend themselves.

But the study also admits it has worked with a very small sample and says the bugs it found “… very likely have not been evolved simply to evade the effects of molecules that we have termed antibiotics.”

“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 paper says. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.