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Andean mummy shows evidence of antibiotic resistance?

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When performing the autopsy on the mummy, the team got a few hints as to what might have caused her untimely death.

Chagas disease, apparently. But

When the researchers got to the gut of the body, they took every precaution to prevent contamination. Here they found that the gut was dominated by Clostridium species, while the paleofeces mainly consised of Turicibacter. In addition to this, they also found evidence of some strains of human papillomaviruses. But what surprised the researchers the most was the discovery of putative antibiotic resistant genes, like penicillin-binding proteins and multi-drug transporters that help shuttle compounds out of the cell.

These findings suggest that the genes necessary for bacteria to resist antibiotics were already present in the microorganisms for a long time before the widespread use of these medicines, and while modern therapeutics might have increased their prevalence, they didn’t necessarily initiate the original resistance. More.

Well, clearly, the recently discovered therapeutics did not initiate the original resistance.

Rob Sheldon writes to remind us,

A few years back, there was an unexplored cave that provided samples of bacteria living in 10,000 old water, which showed genes for antibiotic resistance.

Yes, or for example, here.

Therefore the commonly espoused theory that genes for antibiotic resistance is “evolution” is incorrect, it is already “out there” in the environment.
Modern bacteria are therefore more properly seen as “adapting” rather than “evolving”. It’s a common equivocation made in every biology textbook, and no one speaks out against it.”Evolving” is supposed to be “de novo”, whereas “adapting” is using something already available. Behe would even say that “evolution” has never made anything de novo.

The thing is, when Darwin’s boys use the term “adapting,” they mean they are going to strongarm whatever happened into evidence for their theory (natural selection acting on random mutation generates huge levels of information, not noise), not that they are going to study what happened.

But once the anti-anti-biotic bacterial genes were found in the environment, the response was ho-hum. “Of course they are already there–all of our antibiotics are derived from things like fungal-defenses (penicillin), so naturally the anti-anti-biotics would already exist.”

Which would be just the same as if no Darwinian evolution took place, but one isn’t supposed to know that, let alone say it.

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4 Replies to “Andean mummy shows evidence of antibiotic resistance?

  1. 1
    ppolish says:

    “By taking a sample from the gut of female mummy found in Peru that dates to between 980 and 1170 C.E.”

    BC/AD or BCE/CE. Although Latin was an interesting language, Before Christian Era and Christian Era seems ok too. Centered on Jesus the Christ. Time to “take a knee”????

  2. 2
    Bob O'H says:

    ”Evolving” is supposed to be “de novo”, whereas “adapting” is using something already available.

    No! Evolution is simply heritable change in a population: it doesn’t have to be evolution of novelty. Adaptation is one way evolution happens.

  3. 3

    Bob O’H,
    I don’t doubt that you found that definition in a textbook somewhere, but you do realize that if a definition explains too much, it doesn’t explain anything? Karl Popper had that experience with Freudian psychology–which you may have noticed, doesn’t get much play anymore. If every heritable change is evolution, then paternity cases would be insoluble. If every heritable change is evolution than devolution is indistinguishable, and “progress” is impossible. If every heritable change is evolution, then presumably heritable non-changes, and non-inheritable changes would NOT be evolution, which makes speciation and evolution self-contradictory. It really gets quite incoherent when the definition is broadened too much. But if you think broad is good, then test out this definition:

    Evolution is change over time.

    Now my definition even includes itself–evolution is an evolving word. What could be more general?

  4. 4
    Mung says:

    How did they know she was a mummy?

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