Friday, 20 November 2015

"God Hates Humans!" Winning The Antibiotic Arms Race

Escherichia coli
Emergence of plasmid-mediated colistin resistance mechanism MCR-1 in animals and human beings in China: a microbiological and molecular biological study - The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Creationists and especially the 'Intelligent Design' version, have some serious explaining to do.

Although they habitually try to hide the fact that creationism has a politico-religious agenda by pretending it is some sort of valid alternative science, to a person they are religious fundamentalists, usually Young Earth loons, and invariably oppose secularism and try to dismantle the 'wall of separation' which secular nations build between church and state. So, to assume they believe in a benevolent, anthropophilic creator god whose purpose in creating the Universe was for somewhere to put us, his special creation, will not be too divorced from the truth. Surely none but the most deluded creationists still believe we don't know the 'Intelligent Designer' is none other than the Christian or Muslim god and that the ID movement is simply Bible or Qur'anic literalist creationism dressed up and with the spittle wiped off, to make it look a little less insane.

Central to this anti-science superstition and reality denialism is the insistence that evolution either doesn't happen at all or it only happens when the 'Intelligent Designer' wants it to and precisely in ways it wants, and then often at speeds many thousands of times greater than science predicts or than anyone has ever recorded witnessing.

So, what they have to explain this week, is why, according to their beliefs, their god has redesigned Escherichia coli bacteria yet again so it is now resistant to humanity's antibiotic of last resort, colistin, and why it gave them the ability to pass this resistance to other non-resistant bacteria.

This paper has just been published in The Lancet:

Summary

Background
Until now, polymyxin resistance has involved chromosomal mutations but has never been reported via horizontal gene transfer. During a routine surveillance project on antimicrobial resistance in commensal Escherichia coli from food animals in China, a major increase of colistin resistance was observed. When an E coli strain, SHP45, possessing colistin resistance that could be transferred to another strain, was isolated from a pig, we conducted further analysis of possible plasmid-mediated polymyxin resistance. Herein, we report the emergence of the first plasmid-mediated polymyxin resistance mechanism, MCR-1, in Enterobacteriaceae.

[...]

Findings
Polymyxin resistance was shown to be singularly due to the plasmid-mediated mcr-1 gene. The plasmid carrying mcr-1 was mobilised to an E coli recipient at a frequency of 10−1 to 10−3 cells per recipient cell by conjugation, and maintained in K pneumoniae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. In an in-vivo model, production of MCR-1 negated the efficacy of colistin. MCR-1 is a member of the phosphoethanolamine transferase enzyme family, with expression in E coli resulting in the addition of phosphoethanolamine to lipid A. We observed mcr-1 carriage in E coli isolates collected from 78 (15%) of 523 samples of raw meat and 166 (21%) of 804 animals during 2011–14, and 16 (1%) of 1322 samples from inpatients with infection.

Interpretation
The emergence of MCR-1 heralds the breach of the last group of antibiotics, polymyxins, by plasmid-mediated resistance. Although currently confined to China, MCR-1 is likely to emulate other global resistance mechanisms such as NDM-1. Our findings emphasise the urgent need for coordinated global action in the fight against pan-drug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria....*


Emergence of plasmid-mediated colistin resistance mechanism MCR-1 in animals and human beings in China:
a microbiological and molecular biological study

Liu, Yi-Yun et al.; The Lancet Infectious Diseases. 18 November 2015. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(15)00424-7

*© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

So, according to creationists, this chromosomal mutation must have been intelligently designed because otherwise mutations are harmful and involve a loss of information, so an intelligent designer must have added the new information. This same intelligent designer must also have deliberately designed the mechanism of horizontal plasmid transfer so the gene can not only be passed to non-resistant E. coli but also to other dangerous bacterial pathogens such as Klebsiella pneumoniae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

It probably won't be long before someone like Michael Behe, who earns his living misleading scientifically illiterate people about science, puts pen to paper and claims this resistance as yet another 'proof' of Intelligent Design by pretending it must have arisen in a single event of multiple hugely unlikely mutations in a single bacteria and so was so highly improbable as to be impossible, so a magic man must have done it, just as he's done with the E. coli flagellum and with anti-malarial drug resistance in the protozoa which cause malaria.

Traditionally, creationists ignore the phenomenon of parasites, probably because their pseudoscientists are understandably sensitive about the subject, which, if they were intelligently designed must have been designed by a designer who is far from benevolent and actually seems to like watching suffering. It's also impossible to reconcile parasites with this designer favouring the hosts as he allegedly favours humans, having created everything else for them, allegedly.

So, what creationists need to explain is how this fits in with the idea of anthropophilic benevolence. Why does their all-loving creator seem to be on the side of bacteria like E. coli and why does it seem to want them to be able to make humans sick and die? Does it see our use of science to develop cures and preventative measures against the parasites it made, as some sort of challenge to be defeated?

Difficult though this is for creationists, there is another little embarrassment for them in this story:

One of the claims they try to fool their credulous dupes with is the notion that the theory of evolution isn't science, because, allegedly, it can't make predictions. The emergence of antibiotic resistance was not only predictable from the first principles of the theory of evolution but had been repeatedly and loudly predicted by microbiologists. This prediction was precisely why scientists have been urging restricted and controlled use of antibiotics and why we had an 'antibiotic of last resort' in the first place.

So, will we have the usual embarrassed silence from creationists? Will we even find one having the courage to ask one of the pseudoscience frauds they get their opinions and disinformation from to explain these things and risk being slung off the website in short order?

Don't hold your breath. It's considered to be against the basic principles of 'creation science' to even think about these questions, let alone attempt a cogent answer to them. The best we can hope for is Ken Ham or Ray Comfort waving the facts aside as untrue because they don't agree with him, Michael Behe misrepresenting the data to make it look like magic is the only way to explain it, and, at its crudest level, claiming the scientists are all liars and part of a world-wide conspiracy or it was all caused by same-sex marriage.

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