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Super bacteria as a result of Fukushima ?

Dear Reader,

I am sure that many of you will be aware of Godzilla the movie monster which was a dinosaur which got a dose of radiation and thus turned into the super monster. Also for those readers who were born in the 1980s there is the infinitely more annoying ‘teenage mutant ninja turtles’ who according to one version were pet turtles which encountered some exotic toxin which turned them into super turtles (more like irksome turtles). Here the toxin turned the turtles into super turtles.

Recently I saw a paper which asked the question of would normal bacteria after a dose of Fukushima radiation turn into super germs which would be immune to antibiotic drugs. The good news is that according to Shigeyuki Nakanishi, John E. Moore, Motoo Matsuda, Colin E. Goldsmith, Wilson A. Coulter and Juluri R. Rao in Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 2012, volume 76, pages 169 to 174 it will not happen.

They found that radiation does not turn germs into super germs, I suspect that while the gamma rays may have increased the mutation rate because the microbes were not being subject to attack by antibiotics at the same time the increase in mutation rate did not make the germs evolve.

I suspect that if germs were never exposed to antibiotics that very few germs would be immune to the drugs, the reason is that the immunity to the drug does not give the germ an advantage if the drug is never present.

Also as many organisms evolve an immunity to a drug or a pesticide by changing their biochemistry to make it more “exotic”, the exotic biochemistry might give the organism a disadvantage when the biocide is absent.

For example penicillin stops germs by stopping them making the proteins needed for their cell membranes, if the germs change to have second new enzyme which the penicillin does not deactivate in addition to their normal enzyme then they will have to make a greater effort to grow as they will have to make two enzymes while normal germs only need to make one.

For example I saw an open university film about biology years ago which explained that normal grass can not tolerate copper, but the grass on a mine spoil head is a special grass which can tolerate copper. As a result the grass on the spoil heap is different to the normal grass in a field which is unable to grow on the spoil head.

Because the copper tolerant grass is less able to grow under normal conditions than the ordinary grass the copper tolerant grass is not able to take over the normal land. In the same way I suspect that radiation on its own will not make the germs evolve into antibiotic resistant germs.

I think that the only way to make the radiation turn the germs into antibiotic resistant germs would be to expose a culture of the germs to both radiation and the antibiotic at the same time.


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