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Drug-resistant bacteria found in ancient New Mexico cave

Microbiologists have discovered untouched antibiotic-resistant bacteria 400 meters below Earth’s surface in a 4-million-year-old New Mexico cave.

Nearly a hundred forms of bacteria found within the cave have revealed to scientists that bugs have the ability to repel multiple types of antibiotics, including new synthetic drugs, National Geographic reported. The overuse of antibiotics have been the long-time excuse for drug-resistant bugs. Yet, the bacteria infested walls of Lechuguilla cave, which until recently had not been touched by humans, could lead researchers into explaining why modern drugs are failing to treat infections.

According to TIME, the bacteria’s drug-resistant gene could have possibly evolved millions of years ago and just now be showing up through the natural process of gene swapping.

“Clinical microbiologists have been perplexed for the longest time. When you bring a new antibiotic into the hospital, resistance inevitably appears shortly thereafter, within months to years,” Gerry Wright, a chemical biologist at McMaster University in Ontario told National Geographic.

The cave’s uncontaminated walls have only been allowed to be explored by very few since its discovery in 1986. Findings by Write’s team show 70% of the cave’s bacteria to be resistant to three or four classes of antibiotics. Furthermore, three of the strains resisted 14 of the 26 antibiotics, TIME reported.

“I honestly didn’t expect to see the sheer diversity of genes fighting all of these different antimicrobial compounds,” Wright said.

However, many questions are still unanswered and Wright makes it clear that the study does now allow health-care workers or farming industries to be left without blame due to the lack of knowledge on how the resistance evolved.

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Categories: Health,US News