Tuesday, February 07, 2006

My Dirty Little Secret, and Soil Microorganisms.

by Pharma Bawd

I have a dirty little secret. I’ve never told a soul, but Tara’s call for submissions has fond memories of my last encounter flooding over me, filling me with guilt.

I’m so embarrassed! What if my children found out? I can’t tell my husband, he wouldn’t understand. Hell, I don’t even understand why I do it. I just know I can’t stop.

I remember my first time like it was yesterday. It was a Friday, nobody was around, so I tried it. It was AMAZING! I’d never felt that way before, like I was Queen of the World! I was the expert. I had ALL the answers. Once, in grad school, I was teaching a biology class and I had a similar experience, but this... this was different. I was on a higher plane! It was incredible.

When I finished, I was glad I'd done it. It felt good! Hell, I went away from the experience feeling better about myself.

God, how I curse that day!

I thought I’d never do it again. I had my fun, nobody knew, I'll walk away like it never happened. Then, one day, I was feeling down, I was bored. So I did it again, and it was as good as the first time!

Hey! It’s not like you think. It’s not just a feel-good joy-ride, it’s frustrating too. Every time, the second I start, I can feel pressure growing inside me. Sometimes it builds slowly and I feel it rising through my body, my heart beats faster, the pressure on my lungs makes me labor for breath... Then, other times, it comes on me all of a sudden, but every time, it ends the same, a mad cathartic explosion: anger, joy, confusion, banging my keyboard, kicking my desk, shouting out expletives, I fall from my chair laughing, shouting, and crying out to Darwin!...

Every time I go away from that experience I’m certain that that time, that LAST time, was my absolute last.

But it isn’t. I did it again today, and I know in my heart, I’ll do it again tomorrow.

Once, when it looked like they were going to take it away from me for good....

I wept.

I know it’s wrong, I don’t need you to tell me that. I know it’s a false sense of security, that my conquests in that fantasy world are meaningless, masturbatory, and an utter waste of my time...

As Darwin’s my witness, I will never go to Uncommon Descent again!

And this time, I mean it!

Since they banned me and deleted my comments that first day, making going there an even bigger waste of time, I’ll post my last act of this particular intellectual Onanism here.

Dembski asks: Does Darwinian Evolution Explain Antibiotic Resistance? About this article in Science:

Sampling the Antibiotic Resistome

Vanessa M. D’Costa,1 Katherine M. McGrann,1 Donald W. Hughes,2 Gerard D. Wright1*

Microbial resistance to antibiotics currently spans all known classes of natural and synthetic compounds. It has not only hindered our treatment of infections but also dramatically reshaped drug discovery, yet its origins have not been systematically studied. Soil-dwelling bacteria produce and encounter a myriad of antibiotics, evolving corresponding sensing and evading strategies. They are a reservoir of resistance determinants that can be mobilized into the microbial community. Study of this reservoir could provide an early warning system for future clinically relevant antibiotic resistance mechanisms.

Wow! I can’t believe he’d ask a question like this so soon. You’d think these guys would have learned that soil microorganisms are not to be messed with.

To answer Dembski’s rhetorical question: No. Of course “Darwinian” evolution can’t explain all instances of antibiotic resistance. Although it can explain many, some of which are cited in the very article you offer your readers.

Forty percent of resistant isolates were capable of inactivating the drug, which is

intriguing because clinically, the most prevalent mechanism of rifampin resistance is through point mutations in the target: RNA polymerase_s b subunit.)

For Darwin’s sake! Billy Dembski, you know Darwin didn’t know about DNA, you silly boy. <\batting eyelashes >

However, if we incorporate the knowledge that DNA is the genetic material, as we do in modern theories of evolution, and we understand the very first experiments that proved that DNA is the genetic material, we can synthesize a modern theory of evolution that easily explains the phenomenon of antibiotic resistance among microorganisms. Additionally, we can explain how and why this antibiotic resistance, once arisen anywhere in the microbial world, can be expected to find its way into our hospitals.

Soil on earth is teeming with life. From Behe’s cross examination in Dover we learn that one ton of soil contains 10 to the 16th prokaryotic organisms. That’s 150,000,000,000,000,000 bugs in the top six inches of my backyard alone!

Excuse me a moment.

(calling out: Kids! Wash your hands before supper!)

Sorry about that, where was I? Oh, life in the soil is tough! There’s a whole lot of competition and the food, what there is of it, is not all that great. To survive in the soil you’ve got to live off the land, literally, you’ve got to stake your claim and then you have to defend it. Only then can you settle down with... uh... yourself, and raise a little family of a few hundred million children/siblings. So what’s the best way to accomplish this? First, you’ve got to be willing to eat anything! Second, once you find anything to eat you’ve got to eat it before your 10 to the 16th greedy neighbors come and eat it first. One way to keep the greedy neighbors away is to poison the food, this will usually kill their appetite for the succulent carbon source you’ve discovered. Thing is you don't want to kill yourself or your offspring/siblings.

If you choose this tactic you need to pick a poison that won’t kill you and the little ones. Having a unique enzyme that can break down the poison is a great way to do that. And since, even with all the unnecessary obstacles the Intelligent Design Creationists throw in your way, it will only take the organisms living in the backyards of the 1000 houses in my neighborhood 1 year to evolve such an enzyme from scratch, according to Behe’s calculations, that seems like a good way to go. According to the paper in Science, that's a very popular choice:

We uncovered a wealth of inactivating enzymes

produced by soil bacteria. Of the 11

antibiotics screened, bacterial isolates were

detected that putatively metabolized 6 drugs

(Table 1), including rifampicin and Synercid.

Alternatively you could export the toxin from your cell, leaving even more in the food to drive the neighbors away. But what if it’s the Fourth of July? And your cousins from out of town, who you haven’t seen in like 60,000 generations, show up. Well, they aren’t going to be able to eat that smorgasboard of cellulose you’ve found unless they can break down the poison you put in it to keep the neighbors at bay. There are three ways you can help your relatives out:

1. Conjugation

2. Transformation

3. Transduction

These three mechanisms allow antibiotic resistance and other beneficial genes to be passed from bacterium to bacterium. They can even be passed between different bacterial species, spreading a gene that will confer a tremendous selective advantage on any bacterium that finds itself in an environment that’s inundated with antibiotics, like a hospital. Once the genes for antibiotic resistance are present in a hospital, they are extremely difficult to get rid of because of the many ways that those DNA sequencees can be taken up and transferred by multiple bacterial species. Once present, these genes are maintained in the population by, you guessed it, natural selection.

Don’t miss the comments at Uncommon Descent. Dave Scot trumpets the vindication of Lamarck, and Salvador Cordova, (Oh Sal! I’m gonna miss you the most.) Is helpful as always.

They even go off on a paper in PLoS Biology that reports the researchers were able to STOP evolution of resistance to the DNA damaging antibiotic Ciprofloxacin in E coli by preventing activation of the SOS DNA repair pathway.

My God, what a discovery! These actual scientists were able to stop evolution in the lab, therefore, it can’t happen anywhere! I got news for the UD guys, if you kill the entire population it ain’t gonna evolve squat. Just ask the Dodoes.

Update: On second thought, don't go read the thread at uncommon descent. Just go over to Aetiology and read all the great articles Tara has collected for the inaugural edition of her new blog Carnival Animalcules.

"Bacteria acquiring resistance to antibiotics is an active response. It supports descent with modification and vindicates Lamarck." -- Dave Scot

The only blog inspired by a bumper sticker.

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