Printer Friendly

Century-old bugs resist modern drugs.

Century-old bugs resist modern drugs

Canadian scientists say they have grown 142-year-old bacteria taken from the frozen bodies of two Arctic explorers who were part of Sir John Franklin's doomed search for a Northwest Passage connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific (1845-48). The bacteria showed a surprising resistance to modern antibiotics--a finding that may force scientists to revise current thinking about the mechanisms of resistance.

The knowledge may help researchers develop better antibiotics. We're running out of weapons," notes Kinga Kowalewska-Grochowska, a microbiologist at the University of Alberta Hospitals in Edmonton, who reported the bacterial findings last month at the American Society for Microbiology meeting in Los Angeles. According to current theory, antibiotic overuse creates drug-resistant bacteria; the new research suggests resistance may be caused by more than one factor.

The Canadians traveled to Beechey Island in the Northwest Territory and removed tissue specimens from two crew members, William Braine and John Hartnell. Both bodies were well preserved, having been frozen since the explorers died in 1846. The tissue samples were kept frozen for transport and then cultured in the laboratory. The researchers grew six strains of a common intestinal bacterium, subjecting it to the antibiotics clindamycin and cefoxitin. The bacteria showed resistance to these drugs, an unexpected finding since the two men died before the development of antibiotics.

The Canadian team plans further research to unravel the mechanisms of resistance. One possibility, Kowalewska-Grochowska speculates, is that the men were exposed to some natural form of antibiotic. Another is that heavy-metal exposure creates resistant bacteria. Having eaten food stored in tin cans soldered with lead, both Hartnell and Braine had high levels of lead in their bones.
COPYRIGHT 1988 Science Service, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Science News
Date:Nov 12, 1988
Previous Article:Lessons from the flames: scientists ponder how 1988 burned a hole in their theories about forest fires in Yellowstone.
Next Article:More bad news for sun worshipers.

Related Articles
The revolution will not be fertilized.
What came first? Architect or the egg.
Brushing the dust off ancient DNA; genetic relics reveal hidden details of prehistoric life.
Killer bacteria on the loose; are we about to lose the war on microscopic invaders.
Penetrating the secrets of tuberculosis.
Keeping Bugs from Pumping Drugs.
Antibiotic resistance is coming to dinner.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters