From BBC Future, 11 October 2016:
Antibiotic resistance was around long before we started using antibiotics with a frequency and enthusiasm that borders on addiction. The same genes that modern bacteria are currently loading up on to protect themselves against antibiotics have been found in ancient bacteria frozen in Arctic permafrost for over 30,000 years.
These genes – which would have imbued those ancient bacteria with resistance to some of our top-line antibiotics – didn’t confer much of an advantage when our ancestors were busy trying to pick woolly mammoth out of their teeth.
But since we started slinging antibiotics at every real or imagined pathogenic threat, we created the perfect conditions to make resistance genes the hottest accessory for every bacterium around.
Even the godfather of antibiotics Sir Alexander Fleming, discoverer of penicillin, warned of the risk of spreading resistance back in 1946, arguing the public demand would mean that drugs were over-used until the bacteria evolved better defences. “The thoughtless person playing with penicillin treatment is morally responsible for the death of the man who finally succumbs to infection with the penicillin-resistant organism,” he told readers of the New York Times. “I hope the evil can be averted.” Read more.