Science & Technology
Isolated prehistoric superbug found in a cave
By T.K. Randall
December 13, 2016 · 6 comments
New Mexico's Lechuguilla Cave. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.5 Dave Bunnell
Scientists have discovered a superbug that has remained isolated underground for millions of years.
Antibiotic resistance is gradually becoming one of the biggest medical challenges of our age with thousands dying each year from infections immune to conventional antibiotic treatments.
One superbug in particular however, far from being a danger to public health, may actually be able to help scientists learn exactly why bacteria become resistant to antibiotics in the first place.
It was found, not in a hospital ward, but 1000ft down in New Mexico's Lechuguilla Cave where it has remained isolated from both civilization and antibiotic drugs for over four million years.
Incredibly though, it appears to be resistant to up to 70% of the antibiotics out there.
"It changed our understanding because it means antibiotic resistance didn't evolve in the clinic through our use," said microbiologist Hazel Barton. "The resistance is hardwired."
"About 99.9 percent of all the antibiotics that we 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."
| Comments (6)