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This is quite extraordinary. Researchers studying bacteria locked away in 30,000-year-old permafrost exhibited evidence of genes encoding resistance to a variety of antibiotics. Thus, the authors propose that antibiotic resistance is an ancient, natural phenomenon "that predates the modern selective pressure of clinical antibiotic use."
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Here's additional coverage from +Ed Yong that I just saw. I only did a quick glance, but this is really a story that more should be carrying...
Ummm...there were people who really thought this wasn't part of the arms race that biology always has been? Rilly?

It's cool to have the samples of that age. But it's not much of a surprise...
+Mary Mangan There has been little reliable evidence to prove this, despite your lack of surprise. Science requires confirmation with data to ensure that the obvious is in fact true. Otherwise, it's Scientology.

And you must remember that a predominant view out there, especially amongst clinicians, health specialists and hospital administrators, is that bacterial resistance is a modern phenomenon. Just like you said yesterday regarding the public's knowledge , sometimes it takes a big splash to wake people up to see something significant occurring in their midst.

Also, the fact that these bugs could easily of countered our current "last resort" drug (vancomycin) is quite striking.
Yeah, I can't read the paper because I don't have a subscription. And as a small biz person I can't really read stuff just because it interests me--I have to choose only what I really need.

I would have guessed we could learn something about the time frames from the resistance genes even before having samples of that age. Maybe I'll never know....
+Mary Mangan Why so quick to comment and dismiss then, having not read the paper yourself? I find this a bit more disturbing than whether or not the public has access to the raw data.

But this is exactly the point; despite your scientific background, you could still benefit from and probably get more out of a lay description of the data by a journalist whose job it is to talk to the authors and do all of the background reading that you don't have time to do (as you mention above.) In that case, why do you need access to the paper?? Ed got it for free and wrote it up because that's his job. I got more out of Ed's post, even though the work was published in my journal, because I'm not an expert in evolutionary microbiology genomes.
My comment is based on your post This is quite extraordinary. Because I don't think it is. And I could see the abstract.

I don't really understand how people concluded that entire gene pathways erupted in full in the last 70 years. Are there other cases of this? I'd love to see that evidence. Sounds like intelligent design, actually.

But hey--if you really think we can abandon publications in lieu of blog posts I'll keep that in mind. Personally I prefer access to the accession numbers and stuff to look at the data on my own, see what programs they used, what their settings were.... But maybe Ed will run some analysis for me too. I'll ask.'re starting to descend a slippery slope. And constructing straw man arguments won't help. I'll just leave it at that and agree to disagree. Thanks for the comments!
Ok. I'll go back to trying to access the lizard genome paper that I haven't been able to get for a couple of hours. I was considering blogging about it, ironically enough. But seems to be borked at Nature.
Noah, I agree with Mary that the original wording of your comment seemed to suggest that antibiotic resistance was believed to be a modern development in bacteria due only to the increased selection pressure of pharmaceuticals. The selection pressure certainly existed prior with the natural interactions of these organisms and it would seem strange that anyone would assume otherwise.
+Steve Conaway I'll keep with my line that such compelling, solid evidence of the prevalence, complexity and diversity of this resistance, which occurred so long ago is pretty cool. It is also nice to better-understand the time frames of resistance for evolutionary purposes, no? Previous evidence of various time frames for resistance genes were unreliable and/or not reproducible. I understand the point, but still find it interesting and a fun diversion, since I read about brains all day. Thanks.
No denying that better understanding the evolution of microbial defenses is cool. Science high fives all around. (That's how MRSA spreads around)
Ed Yong
This is an odd conversation. On the one hand, I and others clearly believe that it should have been obvious that antibiotic resistance is ancient, given that antibiotics are ancient. On the other hand, recovering 30k-yr-old resistance genes from Alaskan permafrost and demonstrating that such ancient genes exist is absolutely extraordinary.

These two concepts are not mutually exclusive.
I agree this is an odd conversation, but I think the subject matter quite fascinating. It is always amazing to read of discoveries, especially when they HAVE been assumed or predicted. Finding that proof makes it even more fascinating, widening the picture of science!
I'm glad we all agree that intuition and the obvious still need to be proven by data and that this is an interesting study. The end.
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