Sunday, March 2, 2014

Period poop

When an urban renewal project in Namur, Belgium, unearthed latrines dating back to the 14th c. beneath the city square, researchers jumped at the opportunity to analyze fossilized human feces. And a team of French scientists has made a momentous discovery, given what we know now about the importance of probiotics in the human gut. They have found viruses containing genes for antibiotic resistance from a period long before antibiotics were used in medicine. The viruses are bacteriophages (PHOTO HERE), which keep the population of good and bad bacteria in check. Though they differ taxonomically, most of the viral sequences the researchers found in the ancient stool are related to viruses currently known to infect bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Corresponding author of the study Christelle Desnues of Aix Marseille Université writes, "Our evidence demonstrates that bacteriophages represent an ancient reservoir of resistance genes and that this dates at least as far back as the Middle Ages."

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