Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are increasingly becoming a problem that keeps science trapped in a vicious circle by the development of new antibiotics and the emergence of new resistance by the bacteria. One of the most famous and particularly feared representatives of the multiresistant bacteria is the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which is also known as a hospital germ. MRSA is spreading globally in clinics, and Germany is particularly affected in comparison with similar developed European neighboring countries. The bacterium can also occur in daily life. Researchers have now found evidence that MRSA can also transfer from cows to humans.
MRSA does not only affect people
The development history of the MRSA bacterium is largely unknown – and that although the germ plays a not insignificant role in medicine. A team around Jukka Corander from the University of Helsinki would like to change that and want to know more about the pathogen. For this purpose, the researchers investigated MRSA samples from humans and animals and searched for DNA changes that indicate an adaptation to a new host. The scientists discovered that MRSA probably only affected people at first and only after the Neolithic revolution – the term describing the time when people started to domesticate animals – began to settle with representatives of other species.
Cows play a role in the development of super germs
Because the MRSA pathogen has acquired the ability to infect other species as well, certain bacterial strains have repeatedly been able to jump from one host to another. Even today it is not unusual for MRSA to change from farm animals to humans – or vice versa. The changes in hosts often lead to genetic changes that enable the bacteria to better adapt to their environment and ultimately lead to more resistance to external influences, including antibiotics.
If such changes lead to increased antibiotic resistance, the bacteria can become so called super-germs. According to the researchers, cows in particular play a greater role because they are an important reservoir for pathogens and are the main source of multi-resistant Staphylococcus strains.
Researchers hope that their work can help monitor and minimize MRSA transmission paths.