Minerva

Antibiotic resistance and other stories . . .

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h5941 (Published 12 November 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5941

Mummy, where do the bad germs come from?

Using DNA analysis of the faeces of one young woman, investigators found evidence of bacterial genes conferring resistance to penicillins, fosfomycin, chloramphenicol, aminoglycosides, macrolides, sulfonamides, quinolones, tetracycline, and vancomycin. There was plenty of Clostridium difficile too. Yet this woman died in the Andes 1000 years ago (PloS One 2015, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138135). The microbiome of her mummified faeces provides proof that modern antibiotic use did not create resistant bacteria—it just selects for ones that have been present for at least 1000, and probably hundreds of millions of, years.

Keeping an eye on resistance

Winding forward to the present, we’re in a situation where oral and topical antibiotics have changed the ecology of bacterial populations, causing much alarm. For example, a national survey of ocular infections in the US …

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