Bacteria with antibiotic resistant genes discovered in Antarctica, scientists say

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A bacteria have been discovered in Antarctica with genes that give them natural antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance and have the potential to spread out of the polar regions, according to scientists in Chile.

Andres Marcoleta, a researcher from the University of Chile who headed the study published in the Science of the Total Environment journal in March, said that these “superpowers” which evolved to resist extreme conditions are contained in mobile DNA fragments that can easily be transferred to other bacteria.

“We know that the soils of the Antarctic Peninsula, one of the polar areas most impacted by melting ice, host a great diversity of bacteria,” Marcoleta said. “And that some of them constitute a potential source of ancestral genes that confer resistance to antibiotics.”

Scientists from the University of Chile collected several samples from the Antarctic Peninsula from 2017 to 2019.

“It is worth asking whether climate change could have an impact on the occurrence of infectious diseases,” Marcoleta said.

Researchers found that the Pseudomonas bacteria, one of the predominant bacteria groups in the Antarctic Peninsula, are not pathogenic but can be a source of ‘resistance genes’, which are not stopped by common disinfectants such as copper, chlorine or quaternary ammonium.

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