"Superbugs" Predate Widespread Antibiotic Use
the MPR take:
The rise of drug-resistant bacteria, aka “superbugs,” has been attributed to the overuse of antibiotics but this type of bacteria may have existed decades before the routine use of these medications. Researchers analyzed the genetic data of a Shigella flexneri bacterium obtained from a soldier serving in World War I in the year 1915 who had contracted dysentery. Compared to three other samples from 1954, 1984, and 2002, genetic mutations made the bacterium more dangerous and persistent over time even though only 2% of the genome from the first sample differed from modern samples. The sample from 1915 was also found to be resistant to penicillin and erythromycin and had antibiotic resistance similar to current samples. Because of the drug-resistant nature of this bacterium, prevention is the best means of control, the authors conclude.
Scientists who unlocked the genetic code of bacteria grown from a soldier who died of dysentery say it revealed a superbug that was resistant to antibiotics decades before those drugs were in common use.