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Doctors are looking for the origins of so-called super-pathogens
Many hospitals around the world have problems with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In recent years, such cases have continued to increase. Researchers have now found that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are not a novel problem. Such strains of bacteria existed before the dinosaurs populated our world.
Scientists at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that antibiotic-resistant enterococci have existed for more than 450 million years. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Cell".
How have enterococci changed over time?
By analyzing the genomes and behaviors of today's enterococci, we were able to turn the clock back to its earliest existence, the experts say. This allowed the scientists to get an idea of how these organisms have changed over time, explains author Dr. Ashlee Earl.
Researchers are trying to better understand how microbes adapt to their environment
An understanding of the environmental impact on microbes and how an adaptation leads to new properties could lead to a better understanding of the development of resistance of bacterial strains. It can then be used to better assess how the microbes adapt to the use of antibiotics, antimicrobial hand soaps, disinfectants and other products, the author adds.
Bacteria have been around for about four billion years
According to the researchers, bacteria emerged about four billion years ago. After the animals appeared in the oceans about 542 million years ago, bacteria learned to survive in and on the animals, the doctors explain. But when the animals finally went ashore and continued to develop, they took the microbes with them.
Natural resistance of enterococci
The researchers found that all types of enterococci were naturally resistant to drought, hunger, disinfectants, and several antibiotics. The bacteria are particularly dangerous in a sterile hospital environment, the experts say.
How did these bacteria get ashore from the water?
The bacteria were found in the gut of a majority of land animals. This suggests that they were probably also present in the intestines of dinosaurs and the first millipede-like organism and thus came ashore. After comparing the genomes of these bacteria, the scientists believe that this theory is true. The researchers also discovered that a new type of enterococcus appeared every time a new type of animal appeared or when a new type of animal emerged. This effect was also observed when new species of animals emerged after a mass extinction.
Experts hope to develop special antibiotics against enterococci
Antibiotic-resistant microbes are becoming an increasingly critical global health threat. For this reason, scientists are looking for ways to combat these so-called super-pathogens. The goal of current research is to develop new types of antibiotics and disinfectants specifically for the removal of enterococci, explains author Dr. Francois Lebreton. (as)