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A bacterial mind conceived through design

Study shows MRSA did not become drug resistant through evolution

A petri dish with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MSRA) cultures Associated Press/Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth

A bacterial mind conceived through design

A new study shows that antibiotic resistance in bacteria points out yet another flaw in Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

According to Darwinian evolution, MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant bacteria, should have developed a gene mutation after coming in contact with the antibiotic methicillin. Natural selection would have favored the resistant bacteria.

But in a recent study, published in Genome Biology, scientists discovered that MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) acquired the antibiotic-resistant gene 14 years before methicillin was ever used.

The researchers concluded this pre-existing adaptation developed from exposure to similar antibiotics in the past. Predrag Slijepcevic, a biology lecturer at London’s Brunel University, explains microbial adaptation in a much more complex way, reminiscent of the sci-fi hit Star Trek’s alien Borg collective: Microbial colonies constantly adapt by a coordinated effort of communication through chemical messages, he wrote for The Conversation website. “In this way, microbial society effectively constructs a collective ‘mind,’” he added, likening the bacterial mind to a microbial internet.

But Darwin did not have information sharing through a bacterial web in mind when he spoke of natural selection. Far from natural selection, it appears bacterial cells come with the tools to quickly solve adaptation problems when they encounter new environments and then communicate those solutions back to the colony, wrote David Coppedge, a former NASA specialist, on the Creation Evolution Headlines blog, adding, “This ability to transmit information sounds more like design than Darwinian evolution, which could not wait for lucky beneficial mutations to appear.”


The tiniest doctor

One day, people with stomach infections and other disorders of the gastrointestinal tract may swallow miniature vehicles that will deliver antibiotics to treat the illness with few side effects. In a study published in Nature Communications, a team of nanoengineers developed micromotors, about half the width of a human hair, that can swim quickly through the stomach, neutralize gastric acid, and then release their load of antibiotics.

Gastric acid destroys many antibiotics, so doctors often use Proton pump inhibitors, a group of drugs that reduce the production of gastric acid, along with those medications. But proton pump inhibitors can cause adverse side effects such as headaches, diarrhea, fatigue, and even depression and anxiety.

The micromotors offer a different way to get around the gastric acid problem: They contain a magnesium core that reacts with gastric acid to produce a stream of hydrogen bubbles that not only propels the motors around inside the stomach but also reduces the stomach acid. Once the acid is reduced to an acceptable level, the miniature vehicles release the antibiotic. “It’s a one-step treatment with these micromotors, combining acid neutralization with therapeutic action,” Berta Esteban-Fernández de Ávila, one of the researchers, said in a statement.

The micromotors, which have only been tested in mice so far, are biodegradable and do not leave harmful residue behind. Gastric acid returns to a normal pH within 24 hours. —J.B.


Climate models fall short again

Despite climate alarmists’ insistence that the science is settled on human-caused global warming, new discoveries keep popping up that researchers cannot explain with current climate models. Two such studies have emerged within the past two months.

One study, published in Geochemical Perspectives Letters, offers the first scientific evidence that the natural weathering of rocks autocorrects temperature changes and allows the earth to survive hot and cold temperature fluctuations.

“We were able to confirm that chemical weathering is the driver of the Earth’s natural thermostat,” the researchers said in a statement. “When there is a warmer climate, there is more weathering, and when it is cooler there is less weathering. … More weathering removes CO2 from the atmosphere and puts a break on global warming.” They were quick to caution that those changes are gradual and can take thousands of years.

Another study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, showed some of the world’s largest nonpolar glaciers in the Karakoram, a large mountain range spanning the borders of Pakistan, India, and China, are stable and even growing due to a vortex of cold air covering the range. The finding surprised the researchers because global warming climate models did not predict it.

“Most climate models suggest warming over the whole region in summer as well as in winter,” Hayley Fowler, one of the researchers, said in a statement. —J.B.

Flu scare at the fair

County fair season has been in full swing across the Midwest for more than a month now. But fairgoers could take home more than bags of cotton candy and carnival game prizes. A recent study, published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, showed people can contract influenza from pigs at fairs.

This summer, researchers discovered the H3N2 flu virus in pigs at Ohio’s Clinton County fair, and 11 people who had contact with the pigs tested positive for the virus.

In 2016, the research team documented 18 cases of people who contracted the H3N2 virus from pigs at seven agricultural fairs in Ohio and Michigan. The researchers tested 161 pigs for the virus and found an astounding 78 percent tested positive. Swine exhibitors, who often eat and sleep in the pig barns, have a greater risk because of prolonged exposure.

Most fairs in the study provided hand washing stations outside the animal barns, but less than 10 percent of the visitors used them, lead researcher Andrew Bowman said in a statement. —J.B.

The heavens declare the glory of God

On Monday, I traveled with family members to Sweetwater, Tenn., to witness the total solar eclipse. I went with plenty of head knowledge about totality. I had read about it, watched videos, and wrote articles describing it, but none of that prepared me for the experience.

Along with 1,500 other people who gathered hours in advance to make sure they got a good viewing spot, enduring 88-degree heat, we watched the moon take growing bites out of the sun in a cloudless sky. A collective hush settled over the crowd as the sun became a sliver, the sky turned indigo, stars appeared, and cicadas began to chirp. Shadow bands undulated on the poster board I brought along for that very purpose, and for 360 degrees, the horizon turned the colors of sunset. For one brief moment, the sun looked like a fiery diamond ring in the sky and then it disappeared. The crowd broke out in whistles and cheers as the moon became a black ball banded by the sun’s corona.

I witnessed with renewed awe the evidence of the magnificence of our God, who created the sun to rule the day and the moon to rule the night, who put those celestial bodies in place to maintain our life on this planet and so precisely planned their movements that scientists could predict years in advance, with perfect accuracy, the exact moment at which totality would occur. This was not a cool cosmic coincidence but a beautiful reminder of the God who so graciously designed and tends our planet. —J.B.

Julie Borg

Julie is a WORLD contributor who covers science and intelligent design. A clinical psychologist and a World Journalism Institute graduate, Julie resides in Dayton, Ohio.

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