'Superbug' Gene in the Arctic Found Resistant to Antibiotics – First found in Delhi – India

Researchers found a superbug in the Arctic that is resistant to the most powerful antibiotic we currently possess. Some are saying that this superbug can cause epidemic and could wipe out humanity.

Just a few days ago, the world economic forum warned that antimicrobial resistance is a global health emergency more severe than climate change or war, and now it seems experts are finding this to be true. 

Samples that were taken from the soil in Svalbard and tested contained drug resistant genes. Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic circle. Its north of mainland Europe, and half way between Norway and the North pole. Svalbard Is by all means inhospitable to humans, which is a good thing, considering a huge chunk of the soil contains genes of a drug resistant superbug. The genes are called blaNDM-1 and they are being carefully watched by experts because they could potentially spread around the world and wipe out millions in the process.

This is because the bacteria appears to be completely resistant to antibiotics, the strongest antibiotics we currently have called carbapenems. Carbapenems are usually only used as a last resort, if nothing else works to treat an infection. This is pretty concerning, because if this superbug happened to make its way out in the world, very little could be done about it. I mean it’s pretty crazy to think about fact that a century ago there were no such things as antibiotics. You could die from the common cold or the flu quite easily, let alone a drug resistant super virus or superbug.

This is especially concerning for developing nations around the world where the health care is not up to par with the rest of the globe. This type of super genes was first observed in 2008, when a Swedish patient of Indian origin traveled to India in 2008. The genes were then detected in surface water on Delhi Streets two years later in 2010 but they had never been found outside of clinical, controlled environments like hospitals, and definitely not thousands of miles away in polar regions. And yet, blaNDM-1 was found in more than 60% of the soil in the study.

So how did this bacteria end up in the Arctic?

Researchers at Newcastle University believe they know where the bacteria came from. Instead of originating in northern areas like the Arctic, they might have come from the droppings of migrating birds that fell on the ice. Svalbard is a breeding ground for many different types of seabirds. The bacteria also could have come from humans. Polar areas are some of the last areas on earth with minimal human impact, especially a place like Svalbard where you definitely wouldn’t want to go on vacation.

The islands of Svalbard were first used as a whaling base in the 17th and 18th centuries, but were then abandoned. There are a few permanent communities, but there are no roads to connect them. Residents have to travel by snowmobiles, aircraft and boats. But that doesn’t mean it is not possible for viruses to spread thousands of miles.

Poor sanitation in the developing world causes the spread of bugs to even the most remote areas that are otherwise ‘sanitary’. It actually might be the fault of humans that these super viruses are being created. Antibiotics being used inappropriately are likely causing the rise of superbugs. The use of antibiotics to fight infections in humans, on which they have no effect, and also using antibiotics in livestock production, causes the antibiotics to enter the food chain through runoff.
The super bugs are then created because they have had a chance to mingle with antibiotics when they otherwise wouldn’t have, causing them to become resistant.

According to David Graham who led the research team that found the genes in Svalbard, what humans have done through the excess use of antibiotics in accelerate the rate of evolution, creating resistant strains that never existed before. These findings have been published in the journal ‘Environmental International’.

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