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Bacteria that eats antibiotics

Last post 06-06-2008 11:21 AM by mike. 3 replies.
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  • 04-09-2008 5:10 PM

    Bacteria that eats antibiotics

    Antibiotic resistance is a simple idea: Bacteria that might be expected to be wiped out by a drug are instead unaffected by it.

    But bacteria studied by a research group at Harvard take the idea to a new level. With these bugs, what doesn’t kill them makes them thrive.

    The researchers, led by George M. Church, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School, found hundreds of bacteria that can subsist on antibiotics as their sole source of carbon. They isolated strains from soils in 11 locations, including alfalfa fields in Minnesota and urban plots in Boston, and fed them 18 natural and synthetic antibiotics, including common ones like penicillin and ciprofloxacin. Bacterial growth was seen with almost all of them.

    The researchers, who reported their findings in Science, say these microbes could be considered superresistant, since they can tolerate antibiotic concentrations that are 50 times the levels used to define bacteria as resistant.

    None of the microbes studied by the team cause illness in people, though some are closely related to pathogenic bugs. And no human pathogens are known to have the ability to eat antibiotics. They wouldn’t necessarily be expected to there are plenty of better food sources in the body.
    But the findings represent an indirect threat to human health by showing that there’s a large reservoir of resistance in common bacteria in nature. And since bacterial resistance can be acquired through gene transfer, the possibility exists that human pathogens could pick up resistance from one of these relatives in the soil.
  • 04-24-2008 10:06 AM In reply to

    • mike
    • Top 10 Contributor
    • Joined on 01-23-2008
    • Posts 960

    Re: Bacteria that eats antibiotics

    Sometimes scientists discover things that we all later wish they hadn't. I hope no one finds a way to transfer this antibiotic resilience into more harmful strands of bacteria. Antibiotics are our most powerful weapon against bacterial infections and tend to wipe them out completely. Thanks to antibiotics, countless lives have been saved when a person's immune system just couldn't quite beat the infection. If any pathological bacteria picked up this resistance, it could be devastating.
    Every man dies, but few truly live. Live your life to its fullest, every day as if it were your last.
  • 06-06-2008 5:50 AM In reply to

    • Cae
    • Top 50 Contributor
    • Joined on 01-25-2008
    • Florida
    • Posts 74

    Re: Bacteria that eats antibiotics

    I agree, Mike. It seems all we hear is how antibiotics are becoming resistant to fighting off disease when we need the extra boost. Not that I'd run to the doctor every time I had a sniffle - I try to let my body handle it and produce it's own antibodies, which is the best course most of the time. However, when there's definate infection, antibiotics have been a life-saver. On a side note, eating yogurt (check the label of your med; some meds will be blocked by dairy) or even taking one Acidophyllis (sp?) pill each day helps in creating the "good" bacteria we need to keep us healthy. (You can get these in the vitamin asile just about anywhere. It is the "live, active culture" in most yogurts, as you often hear about or see on a yogurt label, btw). Yes, antibiotics often kill off the good bacteria as well as the bad, but in replacing it each day, you're giving your body a better chance to fight as well as stay balanced. If you wait until the infection is over to add the balance to your Ph, it's often too late and then you can have many other issues. Also, yogurt and/or Acidolphyllis can aid in digestive issues, since it works in the digestive tract. This is why you're hearing more about yogurts such as "Activia" and the like. Of course, most yogurt has always had these healthy bacteria in them, but commerciallizing on the general public's lack of knowledge has always been a popular way to make money with advertisers. Just check your yogurt label. It's really pretty simple. Not to mention the additional dairy/calcium serving it gives you, keeping your bones strong.  

    *Be kinder than necessary. Everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.*
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  • 06-06-2008 11:21 AM In reply to

    • mike
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    • Joined on 01-23-2008
    • Posts 960

    Re: Bacteria that eats antibiotics

    I always laughed when I saw that "Healthy Yogurt" advertising its bacteria as if it was any different than every other kind of yogurt. It's like advertising cheese for having milk in it.

    I always wondered why good bacteria was actually helpful to your body. It didn't sound like a great thing to have in you, and no one really fully explained what it does. But I think I learned just as much from tutoring my student as he did from me. We went over general immunity and learned some really interesting things that bacteria does for you.

    First of all, it competes for resources in your body. There are many kinds of bacteria in your body and most of the good bacteria have no real adverse effects on you. They do tend to crowd out other bacteria that may be harmful. If bad bacteria comes in and tries to occupy the same space and eat the same food, there just isn't enough to go around and the bad bacteria can't spread easily.

    Good bacteria also break down food in your digestive tract. Some nutrients that are very beneficial to your body are too hard to break down on your own. These tiny bacteria metabolize the nutrients and break them down into pieces your body can handle. There are also some waste products from some bacteria that actually mess up the normal functions of certain pathogens, crippling their invasions into your body.

    This is probably why doctors are so hesitant to use antibiotics. It kills the good with the bad, and can actually even make things worse. If you have a viral infection, the good bacteria would actually help a bit to keep the virus at bay. Nuking it with antibiotics won't touch the virus and may give it an edge against your body's immunity. Sometimes that's necessary to keep a person alive, and we can always replenish and regrow the good bacteria. Doctors usually prefer letting you sleep in bed for a couple weeks instead of throwing off your natural balance in your body. I think most of us would rather just take a pill and wake up the next day feeling better.

    Every man dies, but few truly live. Live your life to its fullest, every day as if it were your last.
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