Senin, 07 April 2008

Antibiotic-Resistant Soil Bacteria

A team of Harvard researchers reported in Science this week that hundreds of soil bacteria can tolerate antibiotic concentrations more than 50 times higher than the minimum definition of antibiotic-resistant. A few of them can even thrive on antibiotics as their sole source of carbon. The 11 antibiotics tested by the researchers include such well-known names as penicillin, chloramphenicol, and vancomycin.

None of the antibiotic-eating soil bacteria is a known human pathogen - at least not yet. But bacteria often swap genetic material by a process called conjugation; what if these bacteria were to pass their antibiotic-resistant genes to a truly nasty human pathogen? No one knows how likely this might be at this point.

Instructors will be interested in the original research article (“Bacteria Subsisting on Antibiotics”. Science 320:100-103, Apr. 4, 2008). Students could be given the editorial comment, page 33 of the same issue. Its worth discussing in conjunction with the Health Watch feature on antibiotic resistance in Chapter 1 of Human Biology, 5th ed.

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