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Bacteria with antibiotic-resistant genes discovered in Antarctica

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A team of scientists has discovered bacteria in Antarctica with genes that give them natural resistance to antibiotics and antimicrobials and have the potential to spread outside the polar regions.

Andrés Marcoleta, a researcher at the University of Chile who led the study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment in March, explains that these “superpowers” that evolved to withstand extreme conditions they are contained in mobile fragments of DNA that can be easily transferred to other bacteria.

“We know that the soils of the Antarctic Peninsula, one of the polar areas most impacted by melting, are home to a great diversity of bacteria,” said Marcoleta. “And that some of them constitute a potential source of ancestral genes that confer resistance to antibiotics”.

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Scientists from the University of Chile collected several samples from the Antarctic Peninsula between 2017 and 2019.

“It is worth asking if climate change could have an impact on the appearance of infectious diseases”, Marcoleta said.

“In a possible scenario, these genes could leave this reservoir and promote the appearance and proliferation of infectious diseases.”

The researchers discovered that Pseudomonas bacteria, one of the predominant bacterial groups on the Antarctic Peninsula, is not pathogenic but may be a source of “resistance genes” that common disinfectants such as copper, chlorine or quaternary ammonium they don’t stop

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The other type of bacteria they investigated, the Polaromonas bacterium, does have the “potential to inactivate beta-lactam-type antibiotics, which are essential for the treatment of different infections,” Marcoleta said.

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