1 Million-Year Old Bacteria, Antibiotic-Resistant Found in Cave Disputes Old Belief

Admin | Published 2016-12-13 09:23

Scientists discovered a bacterium hidden 1,000 ft below in a cave. This astounding "super bacteria" is resistant to most antibiotics and is challenging the known belief about how bacteria and antibiotics interact with each other.

Antibiotic resistance tests: Bacteria are streaked on the dish on which antibiotic impregnated white disks are placed. Bacteria in the culture on the left are susceptible to the antibiotic in each disk, as shown by the dark, clear rings where bacteria have not grown. Those on the right are fully susceptible to only three of the seven antibiotics tested. (Not Paenibacillus bacteria) - Wikipedia

Antibiotics that is produced by a microorganism have one main job, that is to destroy or inhibit growth of a microbes or bacteria that are produced by another. The more a microorganism is exposed to that other antimicrobial agent, the more it can grow resistant to it, some through genetic mutation. But this "super bacteria" found Lechuguilla Cave, New Mexico have been off the grid and far from the surface for over 4 million years, with no animals or metazoans to live with in the cave environment. Hazel Barton, a microbiologist at the University of Akron who helped in finding the bacteria described how the Lechuguilla Cave is an inhospitable environment, even to a bacteria. "It takes about 10,000 years for water from the surface to get into the cave," Barton says.

This bacteria that is identified as Paenibacillus sp. LC231 strain isn't pathogenic in nature. It will not do any harm to you but it can dodge quite a lot of antibiotics even to the point of inactivating them.

Barton says that this bacteria's resistance capability will not add up to the old model of antibiotic resistance wherein a bacteria will only develop resistance after it has been exposed to the antibiotic.

Paenibacillus sp. LC231 is only resistant to natural antibiotics that they use in the clinic. This is how the experts' understanding has changed. The resistance to natural antibiotics is hardwired to this bacteria.

According to Barton 99.9 percent of the antibiotics they use come from microorganisms, from bacteria and fungi. "They are constantly lobbing these chemical missiles at each other. And so if you're going to live in that environment you have to have a good defense," Barton explains how the scarce nutrients in the cave made these organisms to a killing spree for survival. Since some antibiotics are man-made the bacteria is still vulnerable to them. This study aims to shed light to the evolution of antibiotic resistance and understanding the resistance elements found in these ancient bacteria. Source: Nature.com
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