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article imageAntibiotic resistance detected in monkeys

By Tim Sandle     Dec 14, 2014 in Science
Veracruz - Antibiotic resistance is the scourge of modern medicine. Alarmingly, even animals that live far from humans are developing resistance to antibiotics.
The growing menace of antibiotic resistance is, arguably, the single biggest threat faced by the world's population. Antimicrobial resistance describes the ability of a micro- organism to resist the action of antimicrobial drugs. It is increasingly becoming a major worldwide problem. This is to the extent where "humans face the very real risk of a future without antibiotics. The implications of this are that life expectancy could fall due to people dying from diseases that are readily treatable today."
Outside of the world's modern cities, wildlife biologist Jurgi Cristóbal-Azkarate has made a worrying discovery: bacteria that have developed a resistance to antibiotic medicines in the feces of wild howler monkeys near Veracruz. Howler monkeys are among the largest of the New World monkeys. These monkeys are native to South and Central American forests and they are famous for their loud howls, which can travel three miles through dense forest.
These animals rarely see humans, and would never have been exposed to antimicrobial drugs. Cristóbal-Azkarate’s 2014 Veracruz discovery indicates that resistant bacteria are now showing up far from civilization. This surprising development could have alarming implications for humans and animals alike.
In addition to howler monkeys, the superbugs were present in spider monkeys, tapirs, jaguars, a puma, a dwarf leopard, and jaguarundis — small wildcats native to the area.
How does this happen? The primary consideration is the nature of antibiotics. Most antibiotics are themselves of microbial origin (think penicillin) and come from bacteria and fungi. Most bacteria will have been exposed to these microbial by-products millions of years.
However, some of the bacteria isolated from the monkey feces are also resistant to synthetic antibiotics such as fluoroquinolones. This suggests that resistance is not natural but acquired, suggesting that resistance has spread from human-populated areas. The animals may have come into contact with human or animal waste that carried the resistant bacteria, having traveled through water or by way of migratory birds.
The new discovery has been published in the science journal PLOS One. The paper is titled "Resistance to Antibiotics of Clinical Relevance in the Fecal Microbiota of Mexican Wildlife."
In related news, across the U.K. this month over 8,100 healthcare professionals and some 3,600 members of the public have pledged to do their own part to help reduce antibiotic resistance by becoming “antibiotic guardians.”
More about Antibiotics, Antibiotic resistance, Animals, Bacteria
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