The microbiome of uncontacted Amerindians

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Science Advances  17 Apr 2015:
Vol. 1, no. 3, e1500183
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500183

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  • RE: The Microbiome of Uncontacted Amerindians
    • Charles E. Davis, Professor of Pathology and Medicine, Emeritus, UCSD School O Medicine

    Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance

    The authors have made an important contribution to the exciting new field of microbiome diversity and its possible influence on human health. Their elegant studies revealed that the microbiome of isolated Yanomami harbored the highest diversity of bacteria and genetic functions ever reported in a human group and that some of these bacteria were resistant to several commercial antibiotics, despite no known exposure to western people or antibiotics (1). The antibiotic resistance genes were syntenic with mobilization elements.

    Their description of the resistome of the Yanomami echoes the findings of others, who have shown the presence of antibiotic resistance in pre-antibiotic communities (2) and in ancient caves and earth cores (3,4). More than 45 years ago, we detected transferable antibiotic resistance plasmids (called R-factors at that time) coding for multiple antibiotic resistance from several strains isolated from the fecal flora of 128 members of an antibiotic-virgin population of Kadazans living in a remote area of Central Sabah, North Borneo (2). More recently, Wright and colleagues detected multiple antibiotic resistance genes from 30,000 year-old permafrost sediments (3) and the microbiome of a cave that has been isolated for more than four million years (4).

    The current study and the others mentioned strongly suggest that antibiotic resistance genes provide ecological advantages to bacteria independently of...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: The microbiome of uncontacted Amerindians
    • Elizabeth Bent, Research Associate, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Guelph.

    I'm a bit puzzled as to why the obvious explanation for how antibiotic resistance genes could enter the microbiomes of uncontacted people wasn't mentioned- soil bacteria both produce and degrade antibiotics, including categories used commerically. All that would be needed to acquire antibiotic resistance genes is the ingestion of a bit of soil. I found an article describing some of this after a ten second Google search: Perhaps an environmental microbiologist could have been consulted.

    Competing Interests: None declared.

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