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Bacterium Found 1,000 Feet Underground Showed Resistance to 18 Different Antibiotics

Dec 09, 2016 01:07 PM EST
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A new bacterium found 1,000 feet underground in Lechuguilla Cave located at New Mexico has demonstrated resistance to multiple antibiotics, including the so-called "drugs of last resort" such as daptomycin.

Their discovery, described in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications, could provide some insight on how bacteria become resistant to some drugs and how can doctors combat the developed resistance.

"The diversity of antibiotic resistance and it's its prevalence in microbes across the globe should be humbling to everyone who uses these lifesaving drugs," explained Gerry Wright, a scientific director of McMaster's Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research and one of the authors of the study, in a press release. "It reflects the fact that we must understand that antibiotic use and resistance go hand in hand."

The bacterium, dubbed as Paenibacillus, showed resistance to 18 different types of antibiotics and appear to use the identical methods of defense as similar species found in soil. Like other microorganisms in the cave, Paenibacillus have been isolated from the outside world for more than four million years. These findings suggest that bacteria have been forced by evolution to conserve resistance genes even before the dawn of antibiotics.

Further research of the bacterium revealed five new novel pathways that could make bacteria resistance to antibiotics. The researchers noted that finding these different pathways could be considered a big improvement to our defense mechanisms against superbugs. Doctors and scientists could now develop new drugs to fight off the resistance decades before the bacterium spread disaster to doctors and their patients.

The Lechuguilla Cave is considered to be one of the longest caves in the world and deepest in the United States. Due to its isolated and hard path, the cave remains an ideal environment to study how bacteria behave and evolve without any human intervention.

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