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back to article Bacteria isolated for four million years beat newest antibiotic

Bacteria found deep inside a cave that has had scant exposure to the outside world for at least four million years share some of the same antibiotic-resisting traits that other bugs are supposed to have developed in response to modern medicines. That’s the finding of a new research article, Antibiotic Resistance Is Prevalent in …

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Coat

Great stuff

Now then, I'm off to stock up on bacillus subtilis just in case one of these cave dwelling Jurassic super dino-bacteria spawn up here in the light.

It's the one with camel poo in the pocket.

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Anonymous Coward

Not Surprising....

Considering that even the newest antibiotics are from soil bacteria in the first place, it's not surprising that other bacteria have always evolved counter measures to survive.

Otherwise the only surviving bacteria today would be similar to the streptomyces family. This family of bacteria alone produce two-thirds of the today's available antibiotics.

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Thumb Up

Re: Not Surprising....

Exactly right. Most human pathogens live in or on humans and were not exposed to antibiotics for a long time before the 20th cent. That's probably why the early antibiotics were so successful. We are, in effect, breeding them back to their wild ancestors by re-introducing them to the chemical warfare that goes on in the soil - and has done for over a billion years!

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Facepalm

Re: Not Surprising....

"The areas of the cave chosen for collection of bacteria samples have been visited by humans, but only by 4-6 people,"

and, as you say,

"Most human pathogens live in or on humans"

4-6 people are plenty enough to have left gazillions of 'modern' bacteria down there

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Joke

Meanwhile

Meanwhile in ancient bacteria land there are outcry's of a invasion that captured many and subjected them to tourtourus chemicals. Plans to take on the attacker on there home soil are being worked out as we speak.

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WTF?

Re: Meanwhile

Which humorless git down voted that ?

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Re: Meanwhile

I for one welcome our new tiny bacterial overlords

(god i hate that meme)

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Happy

Re: Meanwhile -Capn Hook

'sOK a few more of us have vote3d it back up

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Wrong conclusion.

Instead, think "modern antibiotics weren't designed to combat ancient bacteria".

My take on it, anyway. Occam & all that.

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Anonymous Coward

Now, that's strange

Why would Jeebus put those critters way down in the cave 6000 years ago?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Now, that's strange

In shock news... not everything is for your amusement.

As new discoveries are made, evolutionists are surprised. Creationists... not so much.

Plenty of natural selection, not much evolution.

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WTF?

Re: Now, that's strange

Is this a joke?

I've recently encountered a few quite fundamentalist Christians trying to make a distinction between Evolution (because evolution is *bad*) and Natural Selection (as something which doesn't create anything new, and therefore doesn't challenge the maker-power of God)... but I'm only just noticing how widespread this nonsense is becoming.

Would you care to define your terms, just to check you're on the same planet as the rest of us?

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Re: Now, that's strange

But...I thought evolution was/is Natural Selection? A form of it at least...How can they be treated as distinct things?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Now, that's strange

Isn't it that variation plus natural selection affects the frequency of particular versions of genes (and combinations of them?) Making natural selection more of a mechanism driving evolution.

(As *somebody* said, arguing with a creationist is like playing chess with a pigeon - it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board and flies home to its flock to claim victory.)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Now, that's strange

Natural selection without evolution would end up with a continuous reduction in the number of species. The periodic explosion in the numbers of species over the last 500 million years of evolution disprove your hypothesis.

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Re: Now, that's strange

"(As *somebody* said, arguing with a creationist is like playing chess with a pigeon - it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board and flies home to its flock to claim victory.)"

I've never heard it described like that...marvelous turn of phrase.

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Trollface

Re: Now, that's strange

Ah creationists.

What would the human race do without them?

Advance faster?

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Ru
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Facepalm

"As new discoveries are made, evolutionists are surprised. Creationists... not so much"

We are pleasantly surprised because our understanding of the world has increased. We learn from our discoveries and reapply them to things we already knew about. We now have new tools to understand antibiotic resistance and its acquisition. These are all surprising things.

Creationists? They aren't surprised because they are learning nothing. They already have their calcified worldview to which they will adapt every new thing to fit, and nod sagely with each fresh confirmation that 'god did it that way' and shake their heads sadly at those who don't understand.

Being unable to understand the intersection of natural selection and evolution though? That's a new one to me. "Like evolution but god did it", I presume?

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Re: Now, that's strange

Creationists found deep inside a cave that has had scant exposure to the outside world for at least four million years share some of the same reason-resisting traits that other creationists are supposed to have developed in response to modern science.

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Trollface

Re: Now, that's strange

For crying out loud guys, it's obviously a joke. He said 'Jeebus'. U mad?

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Ru
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Re: U mad?

You did see that we're talking about the reply to the Jeebus post, right?

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Stop

Re: Now, that's strange

@ Anonymous Coward 15

They're not replying to him - they're responding to the "Anonymous Coward" who said "In shock news... not everything is for your amusement. As new discoveries are made, evolutionists are surprised. Creationists... not so much. Plenty of natural selection, not much evolution."

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Boffin

Re: Now, that's strange

Natural selection is one mechanism that drives evolution. For evolution to occur natural selection needs to operate on a genetically diverse population with different fitnesses. So, for example random mutation or DNA copying error may generate a population of bacteria with resistance to a particular antibiotic. In the absence of that antibiotic, the resistant bacteria's mutation may be deleterious - it may grow more slowly, for example. However in the presence of the antibiotic, it will be the fittest bug - out-competing its breathren to become the dominant variety.

So evolution is a product of two mechanisms; one that generates diversity, the other that selects the 'fittest' individuals from this diverse population.

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Re: Now, that's strange

How the hell did that cretin end up at the reg? I'm blaming severe typing failure

It's actually spelt d-a-i-l-y-m-a-i-l-dot-c-o-dot-u-k

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Now, that's strange

Shaky science reporting, sure. But I wasn't aware of a great deal of fundamentalist creationism in the Daily Mail.

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Facepalm

Re: Now, that's strange

Nah, we need them as a benchmark, otherwise we've nothing to compare common sense to.

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Paris Hilton

Re: Now, that's strange

noticing how widespread this nonsense is becoming.

Of course this "Creationism" stuff is nonsense. These bacteria are obviously immune to our antibiotics because of morphic resonance!

(that's it Paris... use your brain waves!)

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Re: Now, that's strange

Not unless it affects house prices!

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"exposure to Register readers"

Was that slipped in to see if we were awake/actually reading the article? Or do we have unique antibiotic properties?

Anyway, the findings demonstrate (to me anyway) that bacteria naturally have antibiotic properties and that's about all. Maybe they were so common because the isolated communities have been fighting it out for so long.

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Re: "exposure to Register readers"

silence test subject 17.

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Happy

Re: "exposure to Register readers" - 'silence'

nul

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I could have told them that.

Evolution has been working on biological weapons since just after the first replicator started making copies of itself. We've been at it about 84 years, so we've got some catching up to do.

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Boffin

So is it like this?

So does it work like this?

a) There are loads of naturally occurring bacteria, some of which are susceptible to antibiotics, others are resistant

b) These bacteria have reproduced for millennia, using humans and other species as breeding grounds

c) The antibiotic susceptible ones have been by far the more widespread, outcompeting the resistant ones

d) 70 years ago we waded in with antibiotics, and started hitting out at the susceptible ones in their key breeding grounds (firstly humans, then other species)

e) The anti-biotic resistant ones have found their competitors' population falling, and have started to spread out into the extra space.

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Re: So is it like this?

b) It's a little wider in scope than just "These bacteria have reproduced for millennia, using humans and other species as breeding grounds"

Bacteria as a whole do not rely on humans or other animals, or more correctly just other forms of life, as breeding grounds - that's what viruses do. In broad terms bacteria can reproduce on their own, viruses use other organisms to reproduce however like all things there are various varieties that tend to bend these rules. Bacteria may happen to inhabit animals but are to be found lurking pretty much everywhere, it's just that animals produce a lot of waste of all forms and therefore can harbour quite nice environments for many bacteria to live.

This is aside from a lot of symbiotic relationships that have developed between bacteria and higher forms of life - for example humans can't survive without any bacteria and some of those that live in or on us are so specialised that they're largely unique to humans. This doesn't necessarily mean that they rely on us to survive just that we're their preferred environment - after all they need to be able to survive outside their animal environment hosts to spread.

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Boffin

Re: So is it like this?

One of the reasons that bacteria have adapted so rapidly to man-made antibiotics is that they have a large store of 'junk DNA' to call upon... just like you might have something in your cobwebby shed that 'might just come in handy' one day. It's much like 'delete' on your harddisk changing the index, but not the actual ones and zeros.

When their resistance to such-and-such a compound became redundant, it is more likely that the index was lost to mutation (since their was no selection pressure on it), rather than the genes for the resistance. Fast forward thousands of years, and it only takes a few mutations to restore their resistance, since all that needs to happen is for the index to be reinstated and the gene patched up, rather than rebuild the whole gene from scratch (through the process of natural selection of random mutations).

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Re: So is it like this?

Sorry, to clarify:

One would imagine that over the many eons, chemical compounds similar to many of ones we use today as antibiotics have cropped up from time to time, produced by other bacteria and organisms as part of their ongoing chemical arms-race. Used and ambandoned, as they cease to be effective. The arms race moves on, and the compound ceases to be a part of the bacteria's environment. Immediate resistance might be lost (why waste the resources?), but many of the genes responsible live on in 'junk DNA'- but just not being used.

But yeah, what happened to the idea of fighting bacteria with 'phages' (viruses)?

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Boffin

Keep in mind the original antibiotics were *excreted* by other bacteria.

So the obvious move is to *find* them.

The fact these bacteria have retained this resistance suggests *either* its still useful (because the bugs that excrete these poisons are still somewhere in the environment *or* there is no evolutionary pressure *not* to conserve their genes.

BTW the full theory of evolution requires both natural selection and *mutation*

Those of a theological bent can rationalize the 1st bit (species wipe each other out because they are just better at it than others) under the usual "It's all part of God's plan."

However the 2nd bit (introducing multiple random new species) is more troublesome to them. You seem to be dealing with a dithering God who keeps changing their mind. That does not sit well with the usual omniscient and omnipresent deity image.

Having worked with a number of IT staff I'd say some of them are quite capable of harboring (and excreteing) chemicals unknown to medical science.

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WTF?

Good Bacteria, Bad Bacteria

Does no-one watch the Danone adverts? ;-)

Honestly though, all these different bacteria have been battling it out for millenia - why the surprise that the same resistances manifest themselves in bacteria from yonks ago?

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FAIL

FFS

"In other words, bacteria are already good at battling antibiotics, so it’s not entirely safe to assume anthropogenic antibiotics have created an evolutionary hothouse that forces bacteria to defend themselves."

FAIL at logic.

The bacteria population is NOT good at battling antibiotics at least by default otherwise there wouldn't BE any antibiotics.

The bacteria population BECOMES BETTER at battling antibiotics otherwise there wouldn't BE more antibiotics-resistant strains right now.

This "BECOMING BETTER AT" evidently comes from evolutionary pressure on the bacteria population. It doesn't come from God's Own Farts.

This is what "evolutionary hothouse that forces bacteria to defend themselves" MEANS.

Whether ancient bateria have activated genes to pump the molecules to the outside of their fatty surface is neither here nor there. It just means that modern bacteria probably can just fallback tio already-present genes, leading to better survivial in the hothouse.

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Anonymous Coward

Misrepresentation of the study's findings IMO.

The entire paragraph beginning "In other words" is an authorial interjection. It does not follow from what the previous paragraph quotes of the study, and is explicitly contradicted by the quotes from the study in the subsequent paragraph, so it is not a valid simplification at all; it is a non-sequitur that falls into the very trap of inferring too much from the data that the authors explicitly warn against.

Agenda much?

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Re: FFS

"The bacteria population is NOT good at battling antibiotics at least by default otherwise there wouldn't BE any antibiotics".

Hmm, let's see if I've got this straight...

"The zebra population is NOT good at battling lions at least by default otherwise there wouldn't BE any lions".

Nah, doesn't work for me. Although I suppose a lot does depend on that sublimely unquantified "good at".

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Re: FFS

"The bacteria population BECOMES BETTER at battling antibiotics otherwise there wouldn't BE more antibiotics-resistant strains right now."

The bacteria don't become better at battling antibiotics. Random mutations occur and those mutations that permit the new strains to function/live in the presence of antibiotics.

1) Bacteria thrive in current environment. Random mutations occur that introduce different attributes. One might have the effect of allowing the bacteria to be better able to survive in the presence of antibiotics. In the current antibiotic-free environment, they are not as successful as the original strain and their numbers are kept low.

2) Antibiotics are introduced to the environment which kills most/all of the original strain. The new strain is not affected by the antibiotics and now, with few of the original strain of bacteria to compete with are now able to reproduce to greater numbers and become the new dominant strain.

Mutations happen all of the time, but only the ones that give the species a better chance of surviving to reproduce survive. Even in man's genes there are a lot of dominant and recessive genes. The recessive ones are still there (good and bad) just waiting for the right opportunity.

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Anonymous Coward

Why the lion-zebra analogy doesn't work.

It doesn't work because, unlike the case with antibiotics and zebras, lions are not something secreted by zebras as a defence mechanism against other zebras.

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Trollface

Lechuguilla Cave? I was potholing there last year. Maybe it's the coffee or possibly the antibiotics but jeez I piss a lot in the cold.

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Unhappy

Lucky blighter!

Envious is not a grand enough name to describe how I feel.

I was lucky enough to have diner with Gavin Newman and see his slides soon after he did the "Planet Earth" HD filming down there - spectacular.

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Right

I think we found the culprit.

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Boffin

I have to wonder how isolated this cave is really? Its certainly not hermetically sealed. For example, the earth is teeming with airborne (and waterborne) bacteria. Give them a few years and they will spread. They are incredibly pervasive. In which case, Horizontal gene transfer could easily explain antibiotic-resisting traits.

i.e. "Horizontal gene transfer is the primary reason for bacterial antibiotic resistance"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horizontal_gene_transfer

Also even if it is hermetically sealed (which I extremely doubt) these aspects we interpret as antibiotic-resistance could easily evolve in different combinations in nature multiple times (For example, Convergent Evolution).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convergent_evolution

Therefore antibiotic-resistance could simply be an example of Convergent Evolution where the old bacteria adapt to the evolutionary stress of exposure to antibiotics in the same way modern bacteria adapt.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Now, that's strange

I think the issue that some people have with "Evolution" is that the term is overloaded, in classical mathematical terms.

Evolution through Adaptation occurs, where new generic material is not created, is seen in the world, and is demonstrated in a lab, using the Scientific Method.

Evolution, suggested by some to be a process where new (properly working) genetic material is created from nowhere through mutations, has not been demonstrated in a lab, using the Scientific Method.

Natural Selection has been observed and has been simulated by intelligent humans for thousands of years through Selective Breeding, to create variations on an initial kind (i.e. Animals migrating to an area not thriving, Native Americans liking curly hair having relations with Africans for offspring benefit, breeding out height of dogs, breeding in colors of horses, etc.)

There are some people who just feel that if something can not be demonstrated in a lab, through the Scientific Method, it is not science.

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