New threat arising from the melting of Antarctica. Scientists from the University of Chile have found Resistance genes that could give bacteria “superpowers” against antibiotics and other antimicrobials, which could lead to an outbreak of infectious diseases. This situation becomes very relevant as the melting of the poles progresses due to global warming.
Between 2017 and 2019, researchers from the University of Chile collected samples at different points on the Antarctic Peninsula to complete the study, which was published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.
In this sense, Andrés Marcoleta, an academic from the university’s Faculty of Sciences, explains that the “superpowers” developed in the evolutionary process to resist extreme conditions they are contained in mobile DNA fragments, which would allow their easy transfer to other bacteria.
“Now we know that the soils of Antarctica, one of the polar areas most impacted by melting ice, inhabit a great diversity of bacteria, and that some of them constitute a potential source of ancestral genes that confer resistance to antibiotics”, he pointed.
“Proliferation of infectious diseases”
“In a possible scenario, these genes could leave this reservoir and promote the emergence and proliferation of infectious diseases”, he added. Another fact to keep in mind is that these “resistance genes” would not be broken by copper, chlorine or quaternary ammonium, according to the study.
Also, Among these bacteria are Pseudomonas, which have high resistance to extreme conditions and toxic substances. and some of them cause serious diseases such as cystic fibrosis, or Polaromonas, which have previously been detected in urbanized polar environments, such as the Siberian metro.
“This reaffirms that contact between bacteria typical of polar environments and pathogenic bacteria is already occurringwhich could favor the exchange of genetic information between them”, warned Marcoleta.
Research also reveals that climate change can, in some way, have an impact on the appearance of infectious diseases, because the melting exposes microorganisms or genetic information that remained frozen or buried for millions of years. That favors greater contact with humans, animals and other organisms, the university said.
The discovery, therefore, would allow the scientific world “to anticipate the emergence of possible new resistance mechanisms in infectious diseases and guide the design of new antibiotics,” concludes the study center.
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