Bacteria that have never before come in contact with humans, their diseases or their antibiotics, but are nevertheless resistant to a variety of antibiotics, have been discovered in a U.S. cave.
"This supports a growing understanding that antibiotic resistance is natural, ancient," and an integral part of the genetic heritage of microbes, suggest researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. and the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio, in a new study published this week in the journal PLoS ONE.
Scientists have long debated the relative roles of humans and nature in the evolution and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can pose a serious problem in the treatment of diseases.In order to figure out how ancient and naturally widespread antibiotic resistance is, some researchers have been trying to study bacteria in environments highly isolated from human activity, such as a part of Lechuguilla Cave in Carlsbad Cavern National Park in New Mexico. It has been cut off from any input from the surface for four million to seven million years. The area is so deep and difficult to access that researchers had to camp there while collecting samples, said a news release from McMaster University.