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Drug-Resistant Bacteria Discovered in 4-Million-Year-Old Cave

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In pristine and ancient samples of bacteria, uncontaminated by human activity, researchers find resistance to several antibiotic treatments, both natural and man-made.

More than 400 meters below the Earth’s surface, in a virtually untouched 4-million-year-old cave, scientists have discovered antibiotic-resistant bacteria, whose existence could explain why the modern drugs we use to treat infections are failing.

Our overzealous use of antibiotics, largely in hospitals and on animal farms, has long been blamed for fostering the emergence of drug-resistant “superbugs.” But the bacteria samples from the isolated Lechuguilla cave system in New Mexico suggests that drug resistance is actually an ancient trait. It’s possible that bacteria’s drug-resistance genes evolved millions of years ago in organisms like those on Lechuguilla’s cave walls, and are showing up in superbugs now through bacteria’s natural process of gene swapping.

The pristine samples of bacteria taken from the cave revealed that the bugs are not infectious to humans but can fend off several types of antibiotics, including newer synthetic drugs

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