Thursday, August 12, 2010

NDM-1 SUPERBUG - the TRURO connection

A mobile gene that creates an enzyme that destroys almost all known antibiotics have been reported in NATURE this week, leading the news around the world.

Bacteria (and microbes generally), kick dust in the face of Charles Darwin and his theories of genetic inheritance.

They can send their 'seed' sideways - not just vertically down to their offspring like humans with PhDs -  but also to other species or even towards other forms of life.

It is called HGT ( for Horizontal Gene Transfer) (aka Transformation) and Martin Henry Dawson from Truro,Nova Scotia (the doctor whose biography I am writing) was the first person to try to make HGT a big issue in the science world.

That happened between 1928 to 1943 but unfortunately few scientists back then cared to face his unpleasant message ---- "simple creatures are anything but."

(And its corollary, that scientists are less brillant than they think they are.)

If we start dying en masse from these new superbugs, maybe more of us will start listening to Dawson's still-pertinent message

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