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Friday, May 19, 2017

Will dinosaurs save our future?

I’m not sure why, but pretty much every kid in the world goes through a “dinosaur phase”.  The timing seems to be kid dependent in terms of age, but without fail, there is a time where they eat, sleep and breathe dinosaurs and it’s funny as heck when they start pronouncing some of the names – tyrannosaurus, triceratops, and parasaurolophus. You name it, they try to say it or worse, make you try to say it!   My son went through the phase and at 8, still waffles in his love of reading about, learning about and playing with dinosaurs.   He also likes to correct me when I say the name wrong….not to worry, as a good parent and lover of microbes, I shoot back trying to get him to say Trichophyton mentagrophytes or Acinetobacter baumannii.  Yep, I’m mature.

I may have geeked out a little when my worlds collided last week. I thought “Wow, dinosaurs and bacteria, how cool is that?”.  A new study published in Cell, looked at the evolutionary history of Enterococci.  These particularly pesky pathogens (a.k.a. VRE) have become the bane of our existence in hospitals, with their ability to become antibiotic resistant and survive in the environment for “eons”.   The researchers analyzed the genomes and behaviours of today’s enterococci and then “rewound” the clock by tracking through history back to the earliest existence of this group of bacteria.  As we now know, bacteria have been around virtually ‘forever’.  As animals started to emerge from sea to land, so too did bacteria.  As we know, there are bacteria humans need in order to lead healthy lives and there are also bacteria that can cause us significant distress.

The study allows us to better understand what type of environment bacteria can live in, what they need to survive and what mechanisms they can develop to ensure survival.   Having a clearer understanding of these requirements, could help us predict how bacteria will adapt to the use of antibiotics and antimicrobial agents, such as disinfectants or hand hygiene products. 

It’s interesting, we often talk about learning from our mistakes.  We’re quick to discount history or listen to our “elders”.  A quote from a recent article I read on millennials in Harvard Business Review states “We are a generation that is ruthlessly comparing ourselves with those around us and our role models at the same time. And if we are not doing something exceptional or don’t feel important and fulfilled for what we are doing, we have a hard time.”   Is this so different from all of us? We want to learn on our own, we want to prove our worth to others.  Perhaps we all need to stop trying to prove how good we are and spend more time looking back through history.  It’s not that we’ll be learning from our mistakes, it’s that we now have the ability to learn, to understand, to truly investigate and uncover what happened in the past.  Perhaps this is the way we will continue to survive in the future and win the battle over the bugs!  I joked last week in my “Wives’ Tale” blog that cow manure can treat athlete’s foot.  Perhaps studying history will teach us that we’re trying too hard to come up with new ways of fighting pathogens.  Maybe the answer is something far simpler….


Bugging Off!


Nicole 

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