Bacteria that live in the soil seem to be swapping antibiotic-resistance genes with other, more dangerous bacteria — the ones that cause devastating infections in humans, a new study indicates.
When a team of researchers analyzed bacteria they had grown from soil samples, they found the microbes were harboring seven genes identical to those that enabled harmful bacteria to resist antibiotics. These genes are active against antibiotics within five major drug classes, they write.
It is highly unlikely these genes evolved independently in the soil microbes and the disease-causing ones, they concluded.
"The sequences of the resistance genes are identical, but they are in organisms that are very, very different, so we know they have been shared between these organisms," said study researcher Kevin Forsberg, of Washington University School of Medicine, in an audio interview released by the journal Science, where the research appears this week.