Ancient cave bugs resist antibiotics, according to a report in National Geographic News and ScienceDaily 11 April 2012, and PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (4): e34953 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034953.
Scientists exploring the Lechuguilla cave, a vast deep cave in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico, have found bacteria they believed to have been isolated for four million years. The cave was discovered in 1986 and entry to it has been strictly limited. In 2008 the National Park authorities allowed microbiologists to collect samples from biofilms (mats of bacteria) growing on the cave walls that had never been touched by humans. A research team lead by Gerry Wright of McMaster University then cultured the bacteria in their laboratory and tested as many as they could for antibiotic resistance. They tested 93 kinds of bacteria with a barrage of modern-day antibiotics and found most of them could resist three or four classes of antibiotics. Three of them could fight off 14 different antibiotics, including semi-synthetic compounds. None of the bacteria are known to cause human diseases.
Gerry Wright commented: “Our study shows that antibiotic resistance is hard-wired into bacteria. It could be billions of years old, but we have only been trying to understand it for the last 70 years. This has important clinical implications. It suggests that there are far more antibiotics in the environment that could be found and used to treat currently untreatable infections”. This study follows previous studies that have found antibiotic resistance in bacteria from Canadian permafrost and soils previously untouched by modern humans. Julian Davies, a microbiologist of the University of British Columbia suggested the antibiotic resistance found by Wright’s team result may be a fortuitous byproduct of genes never designed to battle antibiotics. He commented: “This tells us antibiotic resistance genes are very old, but what it doesn’t tell us is how they find their way into the hospital”.
Editorial Comment: Antibiotic resistance is commonly used in textbooks as evidence for evolution, and therefore a reason it is essential to teach students evolution is a fact, and a reason for why educators should fight any attempt to criticise evolutionary theory. However, the more we study antibiotic resistance the more evidence we find it cannot be explained by the theory it evolved in response to humans using antibiotics, but it is actually part of a system built-in to the microbial world.
UBC’s Julian Davies has made an excellent suggestion concerning the origin of resistance genes: antibiotic resistance could be the by-product of genes that have (or had) another function. Checking Julian Davies’ webpage we found this intriguing comment: “Our interest in antibiotics also includes studies of the roles of antibiotics in nature; are they used as weapons in inter-cellular warfare, or are they signalling agents that help to stabilize the interactions between bacterial communities in different environments? We believe the latter is more correct and have been accumulating evidence for years that resistance genes are primarily designed for communication between differing bacteria and other chemical messaging even with other organisms such as plants and even animals”.
This is a function that would be needed even in a perfect world such as the one recorded in Genesis, where God created all things good, so there was no disease. But how do they act as communicating signals? Davies suggests, “Probably by binding to macromolecular receptors such as ribosomes or the transcription complex in receptor bacteria”. Clearly there is a lot more research to do, but this line of thinking fits more with a Biblical world view than with evolutionary theory. The Bible tells us the world started out good as well as complex, but has degenerated and become corrupt. Therefore, it makes sense that functions that were once purely good have been co-opted to cope with the problems created by the corruption of the world. We predict that if microbiologists used our model of “design followed by degeneration”, rather than trying to evolve new genes for resistance functions using their evolutionary world view, they may find the real function of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance. (Ref: microbiology, medicine, bacteriology)
Evidence News 2 May 2012
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