A team of Chilean scientists has discovered in Antarctica about 20 unknown bacteria that are highly resistant to antibiotics, which could alter their resistance to other microorganisms, thus endangering global health.
Andres Marcoletta, an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Chile, made two trips to the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands between 2017 and 2019, along with researcher McGregor Vers and his assistant Alexis Gate.
Modern equipment for measuring shovels, sterile containers and environmental parameters sought to determine how resistant the microorganisms they lived there were to bacteria from other environments.
After collecting hundreds of local bacteria, about 20 were found to be completely unknown and possessing “hyper resistance” properties, Marcoletta explained to AFP.
To determine their incredible resistance, the scientists developed 12 samples and exposed them to various types of antibiotics used to treat infectious diseases and to metals with bactericidal properties such as copper, arsenic or cadmium.
“Practically no antibiotics have an effect on these bacteria. They have many anti-inflammatory properties. Perhaps this resistance helps in their natural environment to resist other toxic compounds,” Marcoleta said.
“Many of them (bacteria) are multifaceted to classic antibiotics or form a metabolite, which has antibiotic activity against some clinically interested bacteria,” said Dr. Varos.
Scientists are concerned about this new finding because “we are increasingly diagnosing infections caused by bacteria that are highly resistant to the substances available today to treat these infections,” Marcoletta said.
‘Superbug’ infections killed 1.2 million people in 2019, according to a study published in the January issue of the prestigious British Medical Journal. The Lancet.
Meanwhile, the WHO (World Health Organization) announced a global health crisis facing antimicrobial resistance and formed a task force to study alternative therapies.
“These antibodies to Antarctic bacteria can be acquired by pathogenic bacteria (causing disease), which can cause serious health problems worldwide,” the study said. The science of the total environment.
Among the bacteria of special interest are Pseudomonas in the soil of the Antarctic Peninsula and relatives of others living in urban areas, Marcoletta describes as the cause of serious diseases such as cystic fibrosis.
But how can these bacteria be harmful to humans?
“Fortunately, everything points to the fact that the so-called Pseudomonas aeruginosa is not pathogenic, but can act as a source of resistant genes and translate the pathogen relatively easily to Pseudomonas,” the study added.
In this case, he warns, “we will have a health problem because there will be new immune genes that contribute to this crisis of antibiotic resistance.”
Experts say that knowing the genes of these bacteria in Antarctica could help shape potential new antibiotics.
Bacteria and climate change
Scientists have begun a new study trying to determine how these bacteria could be transported from Antarctica to other parts of the world.
“The Antarctic Peninsula, which we continue to explore, is one of the most vulnerable areas to ice melting caused by climate change,” says Marcoletta.
Year after year and at breakneck speed, the soil dissolves, exposing reservoirs of resistant genes.
Researchers want to determine how this condition affects bacteria and whether their genetic information can be transmitted by plants or animals.