Ancient Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Found in Isolated Cave

Michael Nichols/National Geographic/Getty Images

 

Microbiologists have uncovered multiple strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria on the walls of the Lachuguilla cave system, which is part of New Mexico’s Carlsbad Cavern National Park. Located deep beneath the earth’s surface the bacteria have been isolated from the rest of the world for an estimated 4 to 7 million years. In fact the area is so difficult to access researchers had to camp while collecting samples.

Even though the bacteria have never encountered modern medicine a majority of strains were resistant to antibiotics. Researcher Gerry Wright and his colleagues from McMaster infectious disease isolated 93 strains with seventy percent able to resist three or four, and a few strains were resistant to an array of 14 different types of antibiotics including newer synthetic ones.  The results implicate that resistance is not man-made, researchers have suggested that “bacteria in the cave may have evolved to produce antibiotic compounds to outcompete other bacteria in a harsh environment with limited resources”. Gerry Wright adding “the great diversity of resistance among the cave bacteria suggests there could also be undiscovered antibiotics among them”.

 

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