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Prickly Business

An antibiotic-resistant bacterium evolved on the skin of hedgehogs 200 years ago

07 February 2022

Prickly Business

Antibiotic resistance is one of the world’s biggest threats to human health. It happens when bacteria overcome the antibiotics prescribed to kill them. These so-called superbugs exist in large part due to the overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals, but they can occur naturally. In fact, the emergence of one strain of the superbug MRSA has recently been found to predate antibiotics themselves. mecC-MRSA evolved on the skin of hedgehogs over 200 years ago when an antibiotic-producing fungus threatened the bacteria already living there. In order to survive, the bacteria developed a resistance to the antibiotic created by the fungus. Bacterial strains, either lab-grown or from the wild hedgehogs were cultured in the presence of the fungus. Strains from the hedgehogs put up the biggest fight, as they continued to thrive close to the fungus (far left, middle and bottom dishes), whilst the others were defeated (dark rings).

Written by Katy Pallister

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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