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Dirty Bacteria

March 15, 2006

More and more disease-causing germs are becoming resistant to antibiotics. To learn more about the problem, some scientists may literally have to do some digging.


Why dirt is a medical gold mine. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Dirt-dwelling bacteria may hold the key to understanding antibiotic-resistant germs. This according to biochemist Gerry Wright of McMaster University in Canada. He explains that soil bacteria constantly fight each other with natural antibiotics, many of which have led to lifesaving drugs. But they also have to defend themselves. So he and his colleagues tested nearly 500 strains of soil bacteria for resistance to 21 different antibiotics.

GERRY WRIGHT (McMaster University, Canada):
And we found that on average, these organisms are resistant to between 6 and 8 different antibiotics, sometimes as many as 15 of the 21 that we studied.

The resistance was often similar or identical to the kind seen in medical clinics. Further study could reveal how these resistances develop, and even warn of possible troubles ahead. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.