Antibiotic Resistance Is Prevalent in an Isolated Cave Microbiome

April 16, 2012 at 9:30 am Leave a comment

Photograph co

A researcher stands near the “Pearlsian Gulf” in the Lechuguilla caves.
Courtesy Max Wisshak, speleo-foto.de

ARTICLE
Antibiotic Resistance Is Prevalent in an Isolated Cave Microbiome

Abstract:
Antibiotic resistance is a global challenge that impacts all pharmaceutically used antibiotics. The origin of the genes associated with this resistance is of significant importance to our understanding of the evolution and dissemination of antibiotic resistance in pathogens. A growing body of evidence implicates environmental organisms as reservoirs of these resistance genes; however, the role of anthropogenic use of antibiotics in the emergence of these genes is controversial. We report a screen of a sample of the culturable microbiome of Lechuguilla Cave, New Mexico, in a region of the cave that has been isolated for over 4 million years. We report that, like surface microbes, these bacteria were highly resistant to antibiotics; some strains were resistant to 14 different commercially available antibiotics. Resistance was detected to a wide range of structurally different antibiotics including daptomycin, an antibiotic of last resort in the treatment of drug resistant Gram-positive pathogens. Enzyme-mediated mechanisms of resistance were also discovered for natural and semi-synthetic macrolide antibiotics via glycosylation and through a kinase-mediated phosphorylation mechanism. Sequencing of the genome of one of the resistant bacteria identified a macrolide kinase encoding gene and characterization of its product revealed it to be related to a known family of kinases circulating in modern drug resistant pathogens. The implications of this study are significant to our understanding of the prevalence of resistance, even in microbiomes isolated from human use of antibiotics. This supports a growing understanding that antibiotic resistance is natural, ancient, and hard wired in the microbial pangenome.

The research was supported by the Canada Research Chairs program (GDW), a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Operating Grant (MT-13536 to GDW), the National Science Foundation Microbial interactions and Processes Program (NSF0643462 to HAB) and a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship to KB.

Click here for media coverage.

Click here for the article from Plosone.org.

Entry filed under: Treasure from Deep Diving the Biotechnology Web. Tags: , .

From the Canadian Science and Technology Museum Labratory Equipment Collection Biotechnology Education in Canada

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