Wednesday, 27 July 2016

The 'Intelligent Designer' Gets Up Our Nose.


Photograph: By R Parulan Jr./Getty Images/Flickr RF
Human commensals producing a novel antibiotic impair pathogen colonization : Nature : Nature Research

Although examples of stupid design abound in nature, especially in the related fields of biological arms races and parasitism, this one take some beating. It's been going on not just under our very noses but up them.

The story so far (if you believe in intelligent (sic) design, that is): the common bacterium Staphylococcus aureus comes in several varieties, most of which are harmless to humans but a few are harmful. Intelligent (sic) design proponents who normally deny that intelligent (sic) design has anything to do with religion because that would make it difficult to get this Bible literalism disguised as science taught in schools in secular countries, will never-the-less tell you that these harmful bacteria are God's punishment on mankind for original sin.

The more intelligent proponent will simply tell you we can't know the mind of the intelligent (sic) designer we just have to have faith in its intelligence, so it doesn't look quite so much like a fundamentalist religious argument.

They will even claim that the intelligent (sic) designer redesigned S. aureus to make it resistant to man-made antibiotics and does so every time mankind invents a new antibiotic. They have a problem explaining how this equates to an omnibenevolent creator for whom humans are a specially-loved creation but the fall back 'original sin' excuse is normally invoked for that problem too. Apparently, in intelligent (sic) design theology science, randomly making people sick and even die is an act of boundless, unconditional love!

But here's a curious little twist that will probably have to be ignored by the creation industry as it still tries to sell the increasingly laughable intelligent (sic) design fraud. Scientists have just discovered a new antibiotic which is showing promise against multiresistant S. aureus (MRSA) which wasn't made by humans at all, but by another bacterium, a relative of S. aureus, Staphylococcus lugdunensis. They noticed that S. aureus is not often found in the nose or the axilla, where S. lugdunensis tends to be found instead. Something weird has been happening up our nose and in our intimate areas.

It turns out that S. lugdunensis has been waging an arms race with S. aureus, just as humans have been doing, and it has (with the help of the intelligent (sic) designer, presumably) come up with it's own antibiotic! (In fact, of course, human antibiotics are often discovered in soil bacteria etc, but that's another matter).

The vast majority of systemic bacterial infections are caused by facultative, often antibiotic-resistant, pathogens colonizing human body surfaces. Nasal carriage of Staphylococcus aureus predisposes to invasive infection, but the mechanisms that permit or interfere with pathogen colonization are largely unknown. Whereas soil microbes are known to compete by production of antibiotics, such processes have rarely been reported for human microbiota. We show that nasal Staphylococcus lugdunensis strains produce lugdunin, a novel thiazolidine-containing cyclic peptide antibiotic that prohibits colonization by S. aureus, and a rare example of a non-ribosomally synthesized bioactive compound from human-associated bacteria. Lugdunin is bactericidal against major pathogens, effective in animal models, and not prone to causing development of resistance in S. aureus. Notably, human nasal colonization by S. lugdunensis was associated with a significantly reduced S. aureus carriage rate, suggesting that lugdunin or lugdunin-producing commensal bacteria could be valuable for preventing staphylococcal infections. Moreover, human microbiota should be considered as a source for new antibiotics.

This sort of thing is of course exactly what would be expected if the process causing it is an unplanned, natural process with no intelligence or direction, such as evolution by natural selection. It takes some explaining from the point of view of intelligent (sic) design though. Where is the intelligence in continually redesigning one bacterial species to overcome the antibiotics it has designed another bacterial species to produce to overcome the first bacterial species as they battle to occupy the same parts of the human body? They can't even invoke 'the fall' to excuse this one unless one or other bacterium also committed original sin and earned the 'omnibenevolent' designer's irascible and perpetual wrath.

Perhaps a creationist could explain just what their intelligent (sic) designer was playing at up our noses and in our groins and armpits.

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1 comment :

  1. will never-the-less tell you that these harmful bacteria are God's punishment on mankind for original sin.

    If infectious disease is God's punishment, it's rather curious that the most secular societies (such as Western Europe and Japan) suffer the least from such diseases since they have the most advanced medical technology and public-health systems, while more devout regions such as Latin America suffer from them more as religion has retarded their development.

    The case of S. lugdunensis will soon be just one more example, since it takes pretty advanced science -- found mostly in secular countries -- to discover its natural antibiotic and exploit it for the benefit of humans.


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