In an article in the January 20 issue of the journal Science, McMaster University researchers say that study of bacteria found in dirt may be the key in identifying how and why antibiotic resistance happens in bacteria that infect people, predicting future clinical problems, and testing new antibiotics.
Antibiotic resistance has become an increasing public health concern because the organisms that cause infections in humans and animals are becoming less receptive to the healing aspect of antibiotic drugs.
The team led by professor Gerry Wright, chair of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, found that the numerous ways soil-dwelling bacteria become resistant to antibiotics are identical to the resistance patterns seen in patients.
These soil-dwelling bacteria also play a central role in the treatment of infectious diseases. Approximately two-thirds of all known antibiotics are produced by bacteria called actinomycetes, commonly found in soils, compost, and other environmental sources.
"By evolving in an environment of antibiotic production, incredibly resilient bacteria must develop diverse ways to survive or resist the toxic antimicrobial compounds produced by their neighbors," said Wright. "Their coping tactics may be able to give us a glimpse into the future of clinical resistance to antibiotics."
"This research suggests that not only can the study of resistance in the soil help predict future clinical emergence, but it can also guide the development of therapies to counteract this resistance."
Researchers screened 480 strains of soil bacteria isolated from diverse locations for resistance to 21 clinically relevant antibiotics. At high drug concentrations, the soil-dwelling bacteria displayed a stunning level of resistance. Not only were the bacteria resistant to