Bacteria Can Spread Antibiotic Resistance Between Each Other
Kevin Felts 07.30.18
It sounds like something from a science fiction thriller: A strain of bacteria develops resistance to antibiotics, then spreads DNA for the resistance to other bacteria. As if that were not enough, when the bacteria dies, it expels a DNA package into the air for other bacteria to find and absorb.
Should humanity be worried? Yes, we should.
While scientist know bacteria are developing resistances to antibiotics, the search for new antibiotics has been progressing at a snail’s pace. In short, resistance to modern antibiotics is outpacing the search for new non-resistant antibiotics.
Bacteria’s antibiotic resistance genes aren’t just inherited through reproduction – in the case of bacteria that’s asexual reproduction, where one parent cell becomes two daughter cells, also known as vertical gene transfer.
Unlike humans, bacteria can also spread their genes through something called horizontal gene transfer, where bacteria will replicate and then gift genes to other bacteria through a needle-like mechanism called a pilus.
But bacteria don’t even need to be alive to pass their genes on horizontally, because once they die they release their entire insides into their environment – leaving little DNA packages around for other bacteria that happen to pass by.
War Against Bacteria
As if that were not enough, scientist are waking up worms from the last Ice Age. What could possibly go wrong with waking up organisms that laid dormant for over 40,000 years? Who knows what kind of bacteria or viruses are piggybacking on the backs of those worms?
Then there is stuff like antibiotic / drug resistant:
The Center for Disease Control has a webpage setup that describes some of the biggest antibiotic threats – Biggest Threats.
According to the CDC, at least 23,000 people die each year from infections related to bacteria that have developed drug resistance.
Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections.
The fight against infections is a battle that has raged since the dawn of humanity. The discovery of antibiotics gave humanity the upper hand, but now bacteria are adapting.
If something like the pneumonic plague (airborne bubonic plague) developed resistance, we could see a replay of the Black Death from the Middle Ages.