The researchers hope to be able to “predict how microbes adapt to the use of antibiotics, hand sanitizers and other products aimed at controlling them”.
These antibiotic-resistant microbes have ancestral roots, about 450 million years old, organisms that have survived mass extinctions, and which may at present help to better understand the “super-bacteria” that pose a threat to Health of humans.
In a study published in the journal Cell, conducted by researchers at MIT and Harvard University in the United States, the bacteria ‘enterococcus’ was identified as being an ancestor of the time when terrestrial animals began to exist.
“By analyzing the genomes and behaviors of today’s ‘enterococcus’ we managed to go back to the very beginning of its existence and reconstitute the way they have become what they are today”, said Ashlee Earl, a specialist in bacterial genetics.
Many of these organisms resist almost all types of antibiotics and infect about 5% of hospitalized patients, which leads researchers to find out how they have managed to become virtually indestructible.
These bacteria appeared on planet Earth almost 4 billion years ago, while the first marine animals appeared about 542 million years ago.
Enterococcus inhabits the intestines of most terrestrial animals, so the researchers hypothesized that they also existed in the dinosaurs, which they subsequently came to confirm.
They also discovered that new variants of these bacteria appeared simultaneously with some new species of animals, thus developing a natural resistance to water scarcity, hunger, disinfectants and many of the existing antibiotics.
“We now know which genes ‘enterococcus’ have made hundreds of millions of years ago when they became resistant to the lack of water and the disinfectants and antibiotics that attack their cell walls,” said Michael Gilmore.
With this knowledge, scientists are now seeking to develop new antibiotics and disinfectants that specifically eliminate enterococcus, so that they will no longer threaten hospitalized patients.