A team of Chilean scientists doing research in Antarctica has come up with bacteria resistant to antibiotics and other man-developed treatments thanks to information passed on through genes, it was reported.
After collecting samples between 2017 and 2019, the group from the University of Chile highlighted in a study published this week that this type of immunity gains relevance as the melting of the poles advances due to global warming.
Scholar Andrés Marcoleta explained that the superpowers developed in the evolutionary process to resist extreme conditions are contained in mobile DNA fragments, which would allow their easy transfer to other bacteria.
We now know that the soils of the Antarctic Peninsula, one of the polar areas most impacted by melting ice, are home to a great diversity of bacteria and that some of them are a potential source of ancestral genes that confer resistance to antibiotics, the scientists pointed out.
In one possible scenario, such genes could leak out of this reservoir and lead to the emergence and proliferation of infectious diseases, he added.
The resistance genes would not succumb to copper, chlorine, or quaternary ammonium, according to the study published in the prestigious Science of the Total Environment journal.
These bacteria and their genes are not associated with contamination or human intervention, but are part of the microbial communities typical of these Antarctic soils, added the expert.
Among these bacteria are Pseudomonas, which are highly resistant to extreme conditions and toxic substances and some of them cause serious diseases such as cystic fibrosis, or Polaromonas, which have been previously reported in urbanized polar environments, such as the subway in Siberia.
According to the scientific report, pseudomonas antarctica bacteria - one of the predominant groups - are not pathogenic, but could act as a source of resistance genes, while the polaromonae that are also present have the potential to inactivate beta-lactam antibiotics, which are essential for the treatment of various infections.
The researchers admitted that far from seeking to cause alarm on the subject, the publication would make it possible to anticipate future health risks.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that microorganisms, and in particular pathogens, can cause global effects. In this sense, it is worth asking whether climate change could have an impact on the occurrence of infectious diseases, said Marcoleta.