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Antibiotics is perhaps one of the biggest breakthroughs in modern medicine. Or maybe not. Because, resistance against antibiotics have existed for a long time already.

Because everytime you get sick, a stronger dose of antibiotics is required since bacteria becomes stronger then. Overuse of it dilutes their impact and helps create resistant strains.

There's a genetic basis for this resistance, and researchers at McMaster University have discovered that basis buried deep within Arctic permafrost dating back 30,000 years. These scraps of bacterial DNA were found alongside DNA evidence of Pleistocene creatures like mammoths and ancient horses.

Researcher Gerry Wright explains what they discovered in these ancient genes:

"We identified that these genes were present in the permafrost at depths consistent with the age of the other DNAs, such as the mammoth. Brian Golding of McMaster's Department of Biology showed that these were not contemporary, but formed part of the same family tree. We then recreated the gene product in the lab, purified its protein and showed that it had the same activity and structure then as it does now."

As Wright explains, this finding is a reminder that we can work with the natural world, but it's a folly to think we can hope to control it:

"Antibiotics are part of the natural ecology of the planet so when we think that we have developed some drug that won't be susceptible to resistance or some new thing to use in medicine, we are completely kidding ourselves. These things are part of our natural world and therefore we need to be incredibly careful in how we use them. Microorganisms have figured out a way of how to get around them well before we even figured out how to use them."

Via Nature. Image by Mr. T in DC on Flickr.