Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Medicine

Global Biological Experiment Generates Exciting New Results 340

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the we're-all-gonna-die dept.
New submitter hoboroadie writes "Scientific American Magazine says antibiotic-resistance genes have moved from the incubators of our hospitals and factory farms, and are spreading through diverse species in the wild. Resistance genes have been detected in crows, gulls, houseflies, moths, foxes, frogs, sharks and whales, as well as in sand and coastal water samples from California and Washington. This stuff is getting more and more like a Hollywood script everyday, n'est ce pas?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Global Biological Experiment Generates Exciting New Results

Comments Filter:
  • But.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by i kan reed (749298) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @11:19AM (#45345293) Homepage Journal

    We had a half a percent higher profit margin on cattle for a couple decades. That's totally worth having permanent incurable deadly diseases. Tragedy of the commons sucks balls, and time and again, it turns out that the "invisible hand" won't develop any solution to it.

    • Re:But.. (Score:5, Funny)

      by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreakNO@SPAMeircom.net> on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @11:22AM (#45345315) Homepage Journal

      The ghosts of Friedrich Hayek and Ayn Rand find your lack of Market faith disturbing.

      • by operagost (62405)
        You act as if there were no regulation of the health care industry. Indeed, it's probably the most regulated in the world. So what are the free-market forces which you claim are responsible for this issue?
        • Re:But.. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Mab_Mass (903149) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @01:00PM (#45346379) Homepage Journal

          You act as if there were no regulation of the health care industry. Indeed, it's probably the most regulated in the world. So what are the free-market forces which you claim are responsible for this issue?

          First of all, the regulation of the health care industry is to the side of this issue. The largest driver for resistance is the over-use of antibiotics in non-health care related fields, like industrial agriculture, and hand soap.

          The market forces here are the desire for higher meat production (ie, more profit!) as well as the marketability of antibiotics to consumers that don't realize that you don't need or want antibiotics everywhere.

          Where the market forces completely and utterly fail is that the very high cost of widespread antibiotic resistance is NOT being directly felt by the industries that are using them the most. It is in fact a very nice example of where pure capitalism fails - large, long-term, external costs are not felt by the people making short term profits.

          • Re:But.. (Score:4, Informative)

            by Prune (557140) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @01:27PM (#45346687)
            Where the market forces completely and utterly fail is that the very high cost of widespread antibiotic resistance is NOT being directly felt by the industries that are using them the most.

            Mod parent up. This is one of the most insightful comments I've seen on Slashdot today; it both gets to the root of the matter, and generalizes well to many related issues.
        • You act as if there were no regulation of the health care industry.

          Health care? We're talking about the beef industry and Ayn Rand. You need to realign your dissention targeting sensors.

      • Re:But.. (Score:5, Funny)

        by ultranova (717540) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @01:39PM (#45346821)

        The ghosts of Friedrich Hayek and Ayn Rand find your lack of Market faith disturbing.

        The ghost of Ayn Rand should find her own existence disturbing, since ghosts are supernatural.

    • by mfwitten (1906728)

      Are you honestly disparaging both the tragedy of the commons and the invisible hand (i.e., a Free Market, i.e., capitalism, i.e., private owernship of resources) in the same sentence?

      O, Slashdot comments... how you are a microcosm for what's wrong with this world...

      • Re:But.. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by i kan reed (749298) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @11:48AM (#45345529) Homepage Journal

        In this case the "commons" are literally our own bodies and the ecosystems they interact with. Are you suggesting some sort of absurd enclosure movement for air so that bacterial genes can't spread from one place to another? Or are you being an absurd believer in a system for no other reason than your outward facing political philosophy depends on it?

      • Private ownership of resources leads each individual to do what's in their own best interest. Even if the depletion of that resource is bad for the group it is good for each individual doing it. A tragedy of the commons generally arises from individual power and freedoms.
        • by mfwitten (1906728)

          If, as you say, it's good for each individual, then it must—by definition—be good for the group.

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            No.

            If what is good for me is to kill you and take your stuff, that is bad for you and the group. Each individual acts for his own best, he might not get that. Like when I kill you and take your stuff, before you take mine.

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by mfwitten (1906728)

              No. That is not what was being discussed.

              We were discussing what's good for each individual. As you point out, being murdered is clearly not good for one of the individuals, namely me; ergo, your example is pointless.

              Also, as an aside: As someone else pointed out, there's no indication that killing an individual is necessarily bad for the group.

          • Re:But.. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @12:19PM (#45345897) Homepage

            If, as you say, it's good for each individual, then it mustâ"by definitionâ"be good for the group.

            Horseshit. Complete and utter horseshit.

            Individuals do not necessarily exhibit fully rational behavior (in fact quite seldom do), and individuals will always try to get 'more better' for themselves -- because people are irrational selfish bastards.

            So, if I decide that what is better for me is to take away what you have, that isn't better (or even good) for the group if we depend on one another. Very often, what's good for an individual is detrimental to the group if the individual is utterly selfish or shortsighted -- like eating all of the food now and leaving none for later. Taking fresh water, bottling it and selling it isn't good for anybody except the ones selling it -- and once it's all gone, we're all fucked. But, for the short term, it was beneficial for some individuals to do what is best for them, and the group suffers.

            The prisoners dilemma [wikipedia.org] demonstrates that if everyone does what is strictly in their own best interests, everybody loses.

            Capitalism just tries to take the things which are shared resources, and make sure someone gets to it first and claims ownership of it. And when we're talking about our environment and ecosystem, it impacts all of us. And in the end you get the selfish decisions of a few impacting everybody else.

            People like to pretend that 'the market' will solve these problems, when in fact it's mostly a race to the bottom where every sociopath around grabs as much as he can, to the detriment of those around him.

            • Re:But.. (Score:4, Insightful)

              by operagost (62405) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @12:43PM (#45346187) Homepage Journal

              Capitalism just tries to take the things which are shared resources, and make sure someone gets to it first and claims ownership of it.

              A resource can't be shared if no one claims ownership of it. So is your solution that no one is allowed to claim ownership? Or is it that the State will claim ownership?

              In a system where property is not allowed, what is the motivation to be productive? An interest in the common good? That demands altruism. Without individual moral principles, the common good fails... and look, here is the tragedy of the commons again.

              I guess what we've discovered here is that both capitalism and a demand economy fail when people are immoral.

              • by gstoddart (321705)

                A resource can't be shared if no one claims ownership of it.

                Right, something must be owned to be shared. That makes total sense -- we all share the atmosphere and the oceans, and you suggesting someone needed to own it for us to share it? Sorry, but we were sharing it before someone claimed ownership. The ownership came later and is, in fact, independent of how much we share it.

                In a system where property is not allowed, what is the motivation to be productive? An interest in the common good? That demands

            • by mfwitten (1906728)

              Individuals do not necessarily exhibit fully rational behavior

              To an individual, his own behavior is always rational. The concept of "rational behavior" is relativistic, making your absolutist claims absurd.

              So, if I decide that what is better for me is to take away what you have

              Firstly, that's not capitalism (as explained below), and secondly, that is not even what was being discussed. We were discussing what's good for each individual. As you point out, having resources forcibly taken is not good for one of the individuals, namely me; ergo, your example is pointless.

              and once it's all gone, we're all fucked.

              Clearly people will act out of self-interest to avoid that.

              Capitalism just tries to take the things which are shared resources, and make sure someone gets to it first and claims ownership of it.

              No, it's not.

            • by Solandri (704621)

              The prisoners dilemma demonstrates that if everyone does what is strictly in their own best interests, everybody loses.

              The prisoner's dilemma is one specific set of circumstances. If you tweak the numbers in the grid, everyone acting in their own best interests results in everyone winning. In fact, for most situations this is true (which is why capitalism tends to work so well), and the prisoner's dilemma is the minority case.

              So most of the time capitalism works. Some of the time it doesn't. The pri

          • It is good for each individual to consume as much as they can but that's not necessarily good for the group. Are you arguing that there's no such thing as the tragedy of the commons?
          • That is, almost verbatim, exactly the fallacy that The Tragedy of the Commons was written to disprove.

        • by mfwitten (1906728)

          A tragedy of the commons generally arises from individual power and freedoms.

          Private ownership is a restriction of such individual power and freedoms; the question, then, is how to define private ownership. Capitalism is private ownership defined through voluntary interaction.

      • The 'invisible hand' concept isn't so much about the private ownership of resources, it's about the self-correcting property of markets. If there is a demand for widgets, the price goes up, causing more people to invest in their manufacture, bringing the price back down. All without any central management, just emergent behavior. Private ownership helps, but it isn't essential.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Au contraire. The permanent incurable deadly disease IS the SOLUTION to the common human virus that plagues the planet. You don't know the "invisible hand" very well, do you?

    • by chill (34294)

      You're missing one critical detail. The invisible hand is in the position of having only the middle finger raised.

      • Amusing over-extension of the metaphor, but the original intention of the description was that of pulling/pushing people, so I prefer to liken it to being shoved right off a cliff.

    • Re:But.. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Baloroth (2370816) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @12:35PM (#45346097)

      First: it's not a free market. Not in the US, anyways. The FDA and CDC and whatnot regulate what antibiotics can be used in animals... or, at least, in food animals (which is where most animal antibiotics are used). Secondly, the antibiotics used (and therefore the resistances generated) are different in animals than in humans, in large part for exactly that reason: we don't want the widespread usage of antibiotics in animals to result in human diseases becoming much more resistant. And finally: permanent and incurable is incredibly unlikely. Antibiotics resistance has an energy cost associated with it: it takes more effort to be antibiotic resistant than not. That means, absent the use of antibiotics, the resistance will naturally be selected against and fade from the population over time. And even then, there are many classes of antibiotics. Resistances are only to one or two of those classes (although a bacteria resistant to all of them is truly terrifying, it requires even higher energy cost for the bacteria).

      Antibiotics resistance is a major problem on multiple levels, but the problem of resistant strains in humans is due to usage of antibiotics in humans (you know, to save people's lives), not the usage in animals. Resistant animal diseases is also a major issue, of course, because they're a huge part of our food supply, but not so much because we're worried about human diseases becoming resistant to human antibiotics because of antibiotics usage in animals.

      • Re:But.. (Score:4, Informative)

        by locofungus (179280) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @01:07PM (#45346455)

        it takes more effort to be antibiotic resistant than not. That means, absent the use of antibiotics, the resistance will naturally be selected against and fade from the population over time.

        Actually, this (often) isn't the case.

        It's obvious in theory that antibiotic resistance may or may not have a cost associated - but without any selection pressure, whether the resistance evolves is down to luck. Add the antibiotic and the selection is driven but remove the antibiotic again and the selection pressure doesn't need to be back towards the original state.

        What is perhaps more surprising is that reversion to antibiotic susceptibility in the absence of the antibiotic is relatively rare - what actually tends to happen is that there are other mutations driven by the absence of the antibiotic rather than loss of the resistance.

        http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/13/163 [biomedcentral.com]
        http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/evo.12158/abstract [wiley.com]
        http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/11/14 [biomedcentral.com]

        The third one is interesting in that it says that sometimes antibiotic resistance can evolve due to a selection pressure unrelated to the antibiotic. If antibiotic resistance was very costly then you wouldn't expect to see this.

    • by tmosley (996283)
      You know, the invisible hand actually does work. It's just that it isn't allowed to, because contrary to popular (read: idiotic) belief, the US is NOT a free market economy. This has been the case for 100 years now, and it is becoming ever clearer with each passing year.

      The last company I worked at developed a new antimicrobial that was highly effective, but the regulatory barriers to market entry are so high, they have only made headway in using it to prevent tooth decay. Large companies might show i
  • Duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by onyxruby (118189) <onyxrubyNO@SPAMcomcast.net> on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @11:21AM (#45345305)

    If you use something that kills of the weak members of a given entity over a period of time the result will be the surviving members will become strong. Darwinism is brutal and efficient like that whether you want it to be or not. In this case by over using antibiotics everywhere from handsoap to feed for cows we have resulted in the saturation of the environment. The result was inevitable and it really is a case of we did this to ourselves.

    If memory serves Norway prohibits their use in all settings but hospitals and has healthier citizens as a result. It really does boil down to the classic George Carlin germs are good comedy bit. We need regular exposure to germs to become stronger and build healthier immune systems. The only thing were building is stronger and healthier bugs and weaker humans - there's something wrong with that.

    • Re:Duh (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jody Bruchon (3404363) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @11:34AM (#45345405)

      I wasn't a terribly "clean" kid; I didn't shower often at all and didn't wash my hands unless I was about to cook food. I still refuse to use hand sanitizer or anti-germ wipes and I don't expect every surface I touch to be disinfected. Some of that has changed as I have gotten older (I shower at least once a day and by most peoples' standards I'm quite "clean"), but I'm willing to bet that my "unclean" behaviors in the past and my lack of fear of germs and dirt and grease under the nails explain why I very rarely get sick (once a year maybe) and even more rarely stay sick longer than a few days.

      I read somewhere that there's a theory about auto-immune diseases being a result of humans no longer having parasites and infections. The theory was that the immune system has nothing to do and "gets bored." The possible solution is introducing a limited amount of relatively benign parasites. I don't feel like searching for it right now, but I found it to be a fascinating theory.

      As an added bonus, I can kill germ-o-phobes by breathing at them and there will be no evidence linking it back to me. I'M A FUCKING VIKING.

  • We live in interesting times, and it seems they are likely to get more interesting as time goes by. What was the Chinese curse again?

  • by LongearedBat (1665481) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @11:35AM (#45345409)
    These two mean very different things...

    genes that make the crows resistant to antibiotics

    bacteria in the crows were resistant to several other antibiotics

    I presume that the bacteria in the crows are resistant, not the crows themselves.

    If so, then we're in for a Hell of a time finding a cure when we're hit with a devastating bacteriological pandemic.

    However, if the crows were resistant (I doubt that's what the article means) then that would be a cool idea, because it would mean that bacteria could act as a DNA conduit between species.

    • I had the same thought. When was the last time someone had to fight off a crow infection? They are too big to fit in my bloodstream anyway.

      Of course you are correct, original source article was entitled "American crows as carriers of vancomycin-resistant enterococci with vanA gene"
    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @11:52AM (#45345571)

      Actually, they've found that Bacteria and other organisms in your body do communicate through geene expression. So yes, Bacteria can change an animal in such a way that the animals own body informs future bacteria how to deal with antibacterial drugs.

      Secondly, the devastating bacteriological pandemic is already here. Hospitals around the world are now opperating under the assumption that they now have permanent, incurable Gram Negative bacterial infections throughout their hospitals. Most hospitals wont even release data on the subject. They're finding drug resistant bacteria in the drinking water wells in India. This Genie is already out of the bottle.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gram-negative_bacteria [wikipedia.org]

  • But is there any indication that these resistance genes weren't already in those populations beforehand? Is there actually some reason to think that the resistance genes have crossed from bacteria to all those higher-order lifeforms listed? What does it even mean for a crow to be antibiotic resistant?

    • It's called Quorum Sensing.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quorum_sensing [wikipedia.org]

      Until recently they thought Quorum Sensing was simple gene communication between individuals in a bacterial colony to co-ordinate behavior. Recently however they've found evidence that the bacteria can modify the genes in cells of the host and communicate even after the current infection may be cured. Not only that but they think these changes may even be passed from parent to child. They quite literally make the entire animal gene resist

  • by rwyoder (759998) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @11:44AM (#45345485)

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/hunting-the-nightmare-bacteria/ [pbs.org]

    Scariest thing I've watched in a long time.

  • "Global Biological Experiment Generates Exciting New Results" So are we getting our headlines from SimCity now?
  • Relax. I'm pretty sure nobody here is a crow, gull, housefly, moth, fox, frog, shark or whale.

  • I must be misunderstanding, but this news isn't exciting. We don't want bacteria to be resistant to antibiotics anywhere in any species. Exciting from a research discovery perspective is fine, but can someone explain what I'm missing from a "this is good news" perspective?
  • by dtjohnson (102237) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @11:57AM (#45345619)
    The article makes it sound as if the crows are themselves acquiring genetic modifications giving them resistance to antibiotic compounds. However, it is the bacteria inhabiting the crows intestine that have acquired the antibiotic resistance genes, not the crows themselves. The article also suggests that antibiotics dispensed in hospitals are somehow a major factor when, in fact, the quantity of antibiotics dispensed in factory farms surpasses the quantity dispensed for human medical needs by orders of magnitude. If antibiotic resistance leads to increased human mortality, blame the steak on your plate, not the poor fellow down the street having surgery at the hospital.
    • by telchine (719345)

      The article makes it sound as if the crows are themselves acquiring genetic modifications giving them resistance to antibiotic compounds. However, it is the bacteria inhabiting the crows intestine that have acquired the antibiotic resistance genes, not the crows themselves.

      There's only one solution: stone the crows!

  • Just as bacteria and viruses, exposed to high levels of antibiotics, have evolved antibiotic resistance and immunity, so will humans evolve resistance or immunity to the new versions of bacteria and viruses. Of course, the way evolution works, the few humans with superior resistance or immunity to the new superbugs will be the fittest survivors, and the rest of us will become extinct. Evolution has worked that way for 3 and a half billion years, no reason for it to stop now :).
    • Viruses don't need antibiotic resistance.

      HIV is bloody good at developing antiviral resistance though. It adapts so fast that individual patients need to swap drugs after a few years. That's all the time the virus needs to adapt.

    • Humans MAY develop resistance or immunity.
      MAYBE. It's never a guarantee.
      And if the agent is particularly virulent, well, that's great. We just kill off a majority of the population so a small number of people who won the genetic lottery can spend the rest of their lives walking the earth trying to find someone to breed with.

      There are already classes of pathogen out there that are resistant. MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), and VRE (Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus).
      And yes, to a healt

  • We need to pass a law stating that it was great evolution got us this far but now it needs to stop.
    If antibiotic resistance is spreading amongst 'wild' pathogens, perhaps Roundup-resistance will start spreading amongst weeds.
    Who'da thunk?
    Let's pass a law against evolution. Monsanto will surely be onboard with that.
  • Usually "exciting" is used as a positive recommendation. That's not the case here.
    Something like this is BAD. REALLY bad.
    There are whole classes of pathogens that are kept under control via antibiotic therapy now.
    If they suddenly develop resistance, we're in DEEP shit.

  • If a Hollywood movie showed us a cataclysmic event in which millions of people died, I would call that "exciting".

    If the same events occurred in real life, I'm not sure that's the word I would use.

  • by Sir_Eptishous (873977) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @01:24PM (#45346649) Homepage
    NPR had an interesting segment about how farm vets push antibiotics. [npr.org]

    The livestock industry uses them, IIRC, to aid in the fattening of the cows, pigs, etc; Apparently some farmers have discovered other ways to raise healthy and "fat" livestock WITHOUT the use of AntiBiotics, however it is still an uphill battle convincing many farmers to leave that tried and true, ancient tradition of pumping cows full of AntiBiotics.

All warranty and guarantee clauses become null and void upon payment of invoice.

Working...