[News article] Drug-resistant bacteria lurk in subway stations, high school students discover
Reminds me of high school biology (1971). We took samples in the building, including drinking fountains, shower area, cafeteria, and restrooms. Were we ever grossed out!
On another note, am wondering how many folks have strong enough immune systems so these bacteria don’t take hold.
From the 5 February article at the Rockefeller University
Forget the five-million plus commuters and untold number of rats – many of the living things crowded into the New York City subway system are too small to see. An interest in the more menacing among these microbes led high school student Anya Dunaif, a participant in Rockefeller’s Summer Science Research Program, to spend her vacation swabbing benches and turn styles beneath the city. Among her findings: bacteria impervious to two major antibiotics.
The samples she collected and cultured in five stations are a component of a city-scale environmental DNA sampling effort led by Chris Mason, an assistant professor at Weill Cornell Medical College with support from Rockefeller’s Science Outreach program, as well as from numerous local, national and international collaborators. This project, called Pathomap, seeks to profile the city’s microbial community, or microbiome, while also capturing DNA from other organisms. All of this genetic evidence could potentially be used to assess biological threats, including those to human health. The project’s initial results are described in a paper published Wednesday (February 4) inCell Systems.
With help from fellow high school student researcher Nell Kirchberger, Dunaif collected the bacteria on swabs and tested to see if they would grow in Petri dishes containing three commonly used antibiotics. Bacteria from five of the 18 swabs she tested grew in spite of the presence of either ampicillin or kanamycin, and in one case, both. None of the cultured bacteria appeared resistant to the third antibiotic, chloramphenicol.
Antibiotic resistance – the ability of disease-causing bacteria to withstand compounds used to kill them off – can make a once treatable infection more serious, even life threatening. A natural consequence of evolution, and the widespread use and misuse of antibiotics, resistance is increasing worldwide.
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