A team of scientists discovered that superbugs, also known as enterococci, had been present on Earth way long that we would have expected. They argued that antibiotic-resistant pathogens started evolving before dinosaurs, namely 450 million years ago. Also, they discovered why these life forms thrived in hospital environments.
- Enterococci cause serious infections in weakened people.
- They developed resistance to the harsh hospital environment.
- This resistance might be dating back 450 million years ago.
Enterococci are one of the major causes of public health concern around the world. Despite being present in the intestinal flora, they might give rise to terrible infections in those people with weak immune systems. Besides, they have started developing resistance to antibiotics, as the risk of infection is bigger during hospitalization.
Researchers decided to take a look at these life forms and see what makes them so dangerous. To see why they evolve so well in a hospital, they traced them back to their origin hundreds of million years ago. Also, they hoped they could find a solution for antibiotic resistance. The results were published in the journal Cell.
For the study, they took 24 enterococci species, looked at their genetic behavior, and analyzed their evolution. They found that the first such species emerged on Earth at the time when the first animal species appeared on land. This happened before dinosaurs existed, around 450 million years ago, during the Paleozoic Era.
These bacteria expanded and can now be found in the intestines of most animals living on land. In fact, researchers found that new enterococci species appeared at the same time with the emergence of new animal species.
Also, the capabilities to survive and spread in an environment like that of a hospital date back to the Paleozoic Era. Back then, they became able to survive harsh conditions, and adapted to life on land. These traits necessary in the Paleozoic Era prepared them for the starvation and desiccation typical of disinfected environments.
By learning that, researchers hope they could find new ways to combat enterococci’s resistance to antibiotics, and make them less likely to produce serious infections.
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