The idea of bacteria evolving to protect themselves from antibiotics has been brought to my attention multiple times. Sometimes I have been challenged to answer the “unquestionable facts” of the situation while others some have simply asked to know some answers. Now is the time to find some answers.
For millennium, bacterium has affected the lives of humans, animals and plants alike. Throughout these ages, this bacterium has supposedly “evolved” new ways to take care of things that would hurt or kill them. This kind of discovery, of course, has covered the world and is taught nearly anywhere you find information about evolution, bacteria or even things like antibiotics.
However, the story being told is not the entire story.
E Coli. is a highly dangerous disease that has killed many. Because it is so dangerous, this bacteria, among others, has been attacked by humans from all sides. Antibiotics being the most popular.
For awhile, the antibiotics worked and the bacteria died. No more sickness! Right? Wrong. Eventually, the bacteria stopped dying. Had the antibiotics been polluted or changed? No, they were exactly the same. So, if the antibiotics didn’t change, the bacteria must have! And, too many, it appeared that it did.
The bacteria now had a way to fight off the antibiotics that it could not beat before. It looked like evolution in action. Something had changed from a complete loser to a bully beating up all the antibiotics on his block. What had happened?
A bacterium is a very complex cell. Although it is teeny tiny, it is made up of trillions of objects that have to work perfectly for it to live. However, it so happens, those bacteria can easily “change”. He can do this by taking DNA from other cells or using some special tool he usually hides away. When the bacteria started beating the antibiotics, this is exactly what he did.
See, when an object, like bacteria, gets attacked, it must find a way to protect itself or die. Since it obviously doesn’t want to die, the bacteria must find a way to protect itself. And since the bacteria can only draw from his own armory and the occasional one around him, he must use his own defensive tools the best he can.
One of bacteria’s defensive tools is a gene called a citT gene. This gene allows for citrate to be made. This citrate, in turn, is like a shield for the bacteria; it protects it from harm.
So, the bacteria did not evolve a new function or evolve new information. The gene was always there in his body, he just needed to know when to use it and how.