A type of MRSA evolved in hedgehogs long before the first antibiotics

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A strain of the antibiotic-resistant bacterium MRSA seems to person colonised the tegument of hedgehogs much than 200 years agone – and galore different likewise evasive bugs mightiness beryllium successful nature

Life 5 January 2022

By Jessica Hamzelou

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A European hedgehog

Coatesy/Shutterstock

A strain of the antibiotic-resistant bacterium MRSA seems to person evolved successful hedgehogs successful the aboriginal 1800s – agelong earlier the instauration of antibiotics. The uncovering demonstrates however antibiotic resistance tin hap successful quality – and underlines the request for cautious usage of antibiotics.

Staphylococcus aureus is simply a bacterium that tin unrecorded harmlessly connected our tegument and up our noses. But it tin sometimes origin infections of the tegument and gut.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is simply a benignant of these bacteria that can’t beryllium killed with antibiotics similar methicillin. As a result, it tin origin infections that tin beryllium hard to treat. Most cases are picked up successful hospitals, and immoderate are fatal.

Over the past decennary oregon so, researchers person begun to find a benignant of MRSA known arsenic mecC-MRSA successful each sorts of wildlife, including boars, storks, snakes and hedgehogs.

While mecC-MRSA seems to beryllium comparatively uncommon successful astir of these species, researchers person recovered it successful plentifulness of hedgehogs. To find retired why, Ewan Harrison astatine the University of Cambridge and his colleagues studied swab samples from 276 European hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) from 10 European countries and New Zealand.

Hedgehogs from Greece, Romania, France, Italy and Spain didn’t look to person immoderate mecC-MRSA connected their skin. But others did – 66 per cent of hedgehogs from England and Wales tested affirmative for the bacteria, for example.

These animals besides had a fungus called Trichophyton erinacei surviving connected their skin. This fungus is known to nutrient chemicals that tin termination bacteria.

In experiments, the squad recovered that T. erinacei made an antibiotic called KPN that could termination mecC-MRSA lone erstwhile the bacterium’s genes for antibiotic absorption were removed. This suggests that the antibiotic absorption genes are cardinal for the bacteria to past alongside the fungus connected the hedgehog’s skin.

“This benignant of MRSA apt emerged arsenic a effect of a co-evolutionary conflict connected the tegument of hedgehogs,” says Harrison.

By comparing the fig of mutations successful strains of the bacterium, the squad estimation that the mecC-MRSA arose successful hedgehogs astir 1800 – agelong earlier the instauration of methicillin successful 1959.

MecC-MRSA tin origin infections successful people, but these are rare. It is improbable that humans volition prime up MRSA from hedgehogs, due to the fact that we don’t often interact with them. But mecC-MRSA tin walk from hedgehogs to livestock, which are much apt to walk an corruption to people.

The findings should underline the request to usage antibiotics carefully – adjacent caller drugs that mightiness look to termination galore types of bacteria, says Harrison. “Resistance is retired there,” helium says. “Just due to the fact that we haven’t seen it successful humans, doesn’t mean it doesn’t beryllium determination and can’t extremity up successful humans.”

Journal reference: Nature, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-04265-w

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