“Antibiotics: Debunking the Myths”

Famed Johns Hopkins physician, Dr. Osler, said, “Half of everything we’re taught is wrong – the problem is, which half?” Such appears to be the case with modern day antibiotics. Investigators are attempting to debunk widely believed myths about antibiotics and resistance. A sulfa drug synthesized in 1931, prontosil rubrum, was the first clinically useful antibacterial that was safe and effective. However, prontosil was not the first antibacterial agent and humans were not the initial inventors. Between 2 and 2.5 billion years ago, genetic analysis indicates that bacteria invented antibiotics and an antibiotic-resistance mechanism. Bacteria have been killing each other with these antibiotic weapons, and using antibiotic resistance mechanisms to protect themselves against these weapons, for 20 million times longer than we have even known that antibiotics exist. Investigators explored a deep cave in the Carlsbad Caverns system in New Mexico, a geological formation that has been isolated from the surface of the planet for 4 million years and had never before been accessed by humans. They found every strain of bacteria was resistant to at least one modern antibiotic and most were multidrug-resistant. Investigators concluded microbes had already invented antibiotics to poison every possible biochemical pathway, and resistance mechanisms to protect every one of those pathways, even in absence of mankind’s interference.

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