When antibiotics began to be used less than a century ago, scientists were surprised by how quickly the bacteria developed resistance to these drugs. However, recently, researchers at McMaster University (Canada) have discovered that bacteria have been developing this resistance for at least 30,000 years.

The results of the research, published in the journal 'Nature', show that resistance to antibiotics is a natural phenomenon, prior to the modern clinical use of these substances.

"Antibiotic resistance is a problem today, antibiotics are becoming less effective due to the diffusion of resistance in hospitals," says Gerry Wright, one of the principal investigators of the study and scientific director of the Institute. of Infectious Disease Research Michael G. DeGroote. "The great doubt is the origin of this resistance".

"Antibiotics are part of the natural ecology of the planet, so when we think we have developed a drug that will not cause resistance we are deceiving ourselves"

After years of studying bacterial DNA extracted from 30,000-year-old frozen soil (in the Yukon Territory, Canada), the researchers were able to develop methods to isolate this DNA in the Ancient DNA Center of McMaster, and analyze small fragments of ancient DNA using techniques of molecular biology.

The researchers discovered antibiotic resistance genes along with ancient DNA genes, from mammoths, horses and bison, as well as plants from the last interglacial period in the Pleistocene, 30,000 years ago. The scientists focused on the resistance of antibiotics to vancomycin, an important clinical problem that arose in 1980, and that is associated with outbreaks of Nosocomial infections around the world.

According to the study, these genes are present in the depths of the ice, and are consistent with the age of other genes, such as those of the mammoth. Brian Golding, of the Department of Biology of McMaster, explains that these genes were not contemporary, but were part of the same family. Next, they recreated the genetic product in the laboratory, purified the protein, and demonstrated that they had the same activity and structure as they do now.

According to Wright, the advance will have a decisive impact to understand the antibiotic resistance, since, as he affirms "the antibiotics are part of the natural ecology of the planet, reason why when we think that we have developed a drug that will not cause resistance we are By cheating ourselves completely, antibiotics are part of our natural world and, therefore, we have to be very careful when we use them. "


Attack of the Super Bugs (November 2019).