Soil Superbugs

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Soil superbugs found, according to a report in news@nature 19 January 2006 and Science, vol 311, p374, 20 January 2006. Bacteria resistant to many different antibiotics, often called "superbugs," are becoming a serious problem in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. A team of researchers led by Gerard Wright of McMaster University, Ontario, Canada grew 480 strains of a bacterium named Streptomyces, isolated from soil samples collected from numerous different urban and forest sites in Canada. They then tested the bacteria with 21 different antibiotics. Most of the bacteria were resistant to seven or eight antibiotics, but two particularly tough customers were resistant to 15.

The antibiotics tested included some synthetic chemicals as well as naturally occurring substances, so many of bacteria were resistant to chemicals they could not have met before. Because bacteria are known to be able to share genes, medical scientists fear that genes from this vast pool of antibiotic resistance in the soil may move into disease causing bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus ("golden staph"). Scientists believe that Vancomycin resistance in disease causing bacteria may have come from genes passed on from soil dwelling bacteria. Wright suggest that soil dwelling bacteria need to have multiple defences because they live in an environment filled with numerous chemicals given off by other micro-organisms as well as by plants, fungi.

Editorial Comment: This study confirms that the rise of bacterial antibiotic resistance in medical facilities has not been evolution. The ability of bacteria to defend themselves against chemicals is a built in property to enable them to survive in the soil, and bacteria already possessed it before they found themselves in a human body (or hospital).

The ability to share genes is also a built-in mechanism to enable them to survive in a changing environment. It is not evolution because no new genes are being made. It is just pre-existing genes are just being redistributed. Thus, antibiotic resistance and gene sharing are evidence of plan and purpose, not random processes. They become a problem for human beings only when antibiotics kill off non-resistant forms leaving already resistant bacteria to flourish. (Ref. microbiology, medicine, ecology).

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