A false-color scanning electron microscope image of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, better known as MRSA.
Genes that make bacteria resistant to antibiotics are absolutely everywhere, a new study reveals. They're found in soil, feces and even the ocean.
The findings emphasize an important problem with pathogens that are resistant to traditional antibiotic medicines: The genes for antibiotic resistance are a normal part of bacterial ecology, and they existed before humans started using antibiotics in medicine. Now, however, overuse of antibiotics has spurred the evolution of increasingly drug-resistant strains of bacteria, raising the risk of in-hospital infections and alarming doctors, who fear they will soon be unable to treat infections normally considered minor.
Understanding the genes that make some bacteria antibiotic-resistant might help combat the problem, but gaps remain in how much scientists know about bacterial genetic diversity.
"While the environment is known to harbor antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, as proven by many preceding studies, we did not really know the extent of their abundance," said Joseph Nesme, a researcher at the University of Lyon in France who collaborated on the new study. [Tiny & Nasty: Images of Things That Make Us Sick]
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