Millennia-Old Strains of Bacteria Can Resist Drugs They've Never Met

"Why won't you just DIE?!" That's what researchers probably said to strains of 4-7 million-year-old bacterium discovered in the depths of New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns. They found that these hidden organisms have very similar immunities as bacteria that have developed resistances after decades interactions with modern drugs.

Conducted by a group of researchers from Ontario's McMaster University and Ohio's University of Akron, the study has been published in a new article in the journal PLoS One. It involved researchers traveling far into Lechuguilla Cave—at 1,604 feet, the deepest in the continental U.S.—to collect bacteria that has had little, if any, exposure to the outside world. They said that geographic features underground had protected organisms from any contact with antibiotics that water may have transported down under, giving them untarnished samples.

They gathered 93 different bacterium to determine how these foreign bugs stacked up against drugs they've never met. Some even evaded a very new drug called daptomycin. Though their patterns of resistance are not the same, researchers concluded that organisms have been developing these biological firewalls for millions of years. So that a Z-Pak no longer clears up your sinus infection after being prescribed the medicine four times in the last two years is correlated to the number of times you've taken it, but it also has to do with the very nature of bacteria. That means resistances, in some cases, are not just a byproduct of evolution.

The bottom line? You should be careful about what antibiotics you take, and your doctor should be judicious about what he or she prescribes. [PLoS One via The Register]

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