Scientists at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada have found that antibiotic resistance has been around for tens of thousands of years. The breakthrough came after years of studying bacterial DNA extracted from soil frozen in 30,000-year-old permafrost from the Yukon Territories. Research findings published in the science journal Nature show antibiotic resistance is a natural phenomenon that predates the modern clinical antibiotic use.
Researchers discovered antibiotic-resistant genes existed beside genes that encoded DNA for ancient life, such as mammoths, horse and bison as well as plants only found in that locality during the last interglacial period in the Pleistocene era, at least 30,000 years ago. They focused on a specific area of antibiotic resistance to the drug vancomycin, a significant clinical problem that emerged in 1980s and continues to be associated with outbreaks of hospital-acquired infections worldwide.
Researcher say the breakthrough will have important impact on the understanding of antibiotic resistance: “Antibiotics are part of the natural ecology of the planet, so when we think that we have developed some drug that won’t be susceptible to resistance or some new thing to use in medicine, we are completely kidding ourselves,” says Gerry Wright, scientific director of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research.” These things are part of our natural world and therefore we need to be incredibly careful in how we use them. Microorganisms have figured out a way of how to get around them well before we even figured out how to use them.”