Pioneering work being carried out in a cave in New Mexico by researchers at McMaster University and The University of Akron, Ohio, is changing the understanding of how antibiotic resistance may have emerged and how doctors can combat it in the future.
In research published in Nature Communications, the scientists examined one bacterium found 1,000 feet underground (called Paenibacillus) that demonstrated resistance to most antibiotics used today, including so-called “drugs of last resort” such as daptomycin. These microorganisms have been isolated from the outside world for more than four million years within the cave.
The results show the bacterium is resistant to 18 different antibiotics and uses identical methods of defense as similar species found in soils. This suggests that the evolutionary pressure to conserve these resistance genes has existed for millions of years—not just since antibiotics were first used to treat disease.
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