Is the Cure for Superbugs Hiding Deep Under the Earth?

Is the Cure for Superbugs Hiding Deep Under the Earth?


UNDERNEATH THIS CANADIAN FOREST IS AN EXPANSIVE NETWORK OF CAVES, THAT, UNTIL RECENTLY, HAS
NEVER BEEN SEEN BY HUMANS. THESE RESEARCHERS ARE BRAVING PRECARIOUS AND
CLAUSTROPHOBIC PASSAGEWAYS THIRTY FEET DEEP IN THE EARTH — ALL IN A RACE TO DISCOVER
WHAT COULD SAVE MILLIONS OF OUR LIVES. ANN: You plunge yourself down into totally
pitch darkness. You can’t even see your own hand. I have to confess here that I have to turn my brain off, so that I wouldn’t imagine the
worst that could happen in the cave. I don’t like caves, yeah… but I’m doing it for work. These soda straws are speleothems, which basically
means secondary mineral deposits. We thought the formation was caused by physical
and chemical interaction, but actually now everywhere we look we see lots of bacteria
living in this soda straw formation. Each year, this grows only maybe 1 mm or smaller,
so these formations could be 500 years old or longer. A thousand years, this length. Or more. DR. NAOWARAT CHEEPTHAM, OR “ANN,” IS COMBING THE IRON CURTAIN CAVE – AND OTHER CAVES – FOR A NEW ANTIBIOTIC THAT CAN FIGHT
THE QUICKLY SWELLING CRISIS OF DRUG-RESISTANT SUPERBUGS. ANN: If we go into a hospital these days,
some of us might not come back. I mean, I’m sorry but it’s that dire,
the situation right now. We don’t have enough antibiotics in our
toolbox to actually fight against these infections. WHAT WOULD A WORLD WITHOUT EFFECTIVE ANTIBIOTICS REALLY LOOK LIKE? MORE LIKE THE DARK AGES. SURGERIES ARE FAR MORE DANGEROUS. CHILDBIRTH MORTALITY RATES SOAR. TRAVEL BETWEEN COUNTRIES IS TOO RISKY, DUE
TO OUTBREAKS. BY 2050, THERE WILL BE TEN MILLION DEATHS
A YEAR FROM DRUG-RESISTANT INFECTIONS… MORE THAN THE ANNUAL NUMBER
OF DEATHS FROM CANCER. AND IT’S HAPPENING BECAUSE OUR ONLY ANTIBIOTICS, MOST OF WHICH ARE OVER THIRTY YEARS OLD, CAN
NO LONGER OUTSMART INFECTIOUS BACTERIA. ANN: Bacteria are way smarter than us. They adapt so quickly, and they
are very resourceful as well. Every life on earth, we want to survive. Bacteria are just like us in that sense.
They want to survive. There will be one or two of them that are
strong enough, and stronger than the drug that we put in, that they can still survive,
and then they will multiply. Basically this is the the law of nature, that
you have these antibiotic-resistant groups of bacteria. WHICH MEANS, EVEN IF ANN FINDS THE NEXT ANTIBIOTIC, ONE DAY, BACTERIA WILL BECOME RESISTANT TO IT AGAIN. BUT A NEW DRUG WOULD STILL BUY US TIME. AND WITH OVER ONE TRILLION MICROBIAL SPECIES
YET TO BE DISCOVERED, ANN HAS TO START SOMEWHERE. THE IRON CURTAIN CAVE ECOSYSTEM IS SO RICH
WITH LIFE BRAND NEW TO SCIENCE THAT THERE’S HOPE AT LEAST ONE SPECIES COULD HOLD THE FORMULA FOR A NEW DRUG. ANN: The bacteria themselves are not truly
antibiotics in that sense, but it is their metabolites that they produce. We use these molecules as our antibiotics and basically the source of antibiotics and new drugs. SECONDARY METABOLITES ARE BIOLOGICALLY ACTIVE
SMALL MOLECULES THAT HAVE OFTEN BEEN THE SOURCE OF MEDICINE IN THE PAST. THEY ARE A BY-PRODUCT OF BACTERIA, NOT REQUIRED FOR SURVIVAL, BUT FOR A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE AGAINST OTHER SPECIES. HOWEVER, ANN AND OTHER RESEARCHERS THINK SECONDARY METABOLITES COULD SERVE AN ADDITIONAL PURPOSE. ANN: I think there is more evidence now that
these types of metabolites that they produce during their life cycle are used as a tool
for communication within themselves, within their own species, and also between other
species as well. Instead of killing each other off and using
a competitive mode of living, wouldn’t it be more beneficial for their own community
to actually communicate and work together, to achieve the same goal of surviving? With that said, we want to look deeper
into whether they produce certain kinds of metabolites what we could use for our benefit. UNDERSTANDING ANY DETAILS LIKE THESE ABOUT
BACTERIA’S BEHAVIOR OR THEIR ENVIRONMENT COULD HELP IN ANN’S QUEST FOR A NEW ANTIBIOTIC. AND AS IF THAT TASK WASN’T
MONUMENTAL ENOUGH, CAVE ENVIRONMENTS ARE FACING A NEW THREAT, THAT, IF IT CONTINUES, COULD THROW ANN’S MEDICINAL RESEARCH OFF-COURSE. ANN: I never planned to study with bats, but
I can see that it is important, and as a microbiologist, I feel responsible. ANN HAS ADDED THE PLIGHT OF BATS TO HER RESEARCH, BECAUSE OF AN EPIDEMIC CALLED WHITE NOSE SYNDROME. THIS FUNGAL INFECTION HAS ALREADY KILLED SIX
MILLION BATS IN NORTH AMERICA. WITHOUT BATS, CAVE ECOSYSTEMS WILL CHANGE. AND THAT COULD BE A PROBLEM FOR FINDING THE
NEXT ANTIBIOTIC. AND EVEN THOUGH ANN IS A MICROBIOLOGIST, SHE
SEES THE ROLE OF BATS IN THE BIGGER PICTURE. ANN: Can you imagine, it’s just like you
look at this thousand piece puzzle, and bats may be contributing to just one small piece
of that puzzle. But if this piece of puzzle actually gets
lost, the whole puzzle will never be complete in the same way. We need to be careful with our heads,
and also our hands… we have to make sure we are not touching or breaking the mineral
deposits that the cave has. ANN IS LOOKING FOR SODA STRAW SPELEOTHEMS
MADE OF CALCIUM CARBONATE OR CALCIUM SULFATE. IT IS BELIEVED THAT THE IMPACT OF CALCIUM’S
POSITIVELY CHARGED IONS BETWEEN BACTERIA DNA STRANDS COULD BE THE KEY TO KILLING BACTERIA. ANN: We would like to take soda straw, popcorn,
and then some samples, especially from the octopus room. And we would like to set up an experiment there. ANN’S RESEARCH IN THE IRON CURTAIN CAVE
HAS HAD PROMISING RESULTS SO FAR, THOUGH IT IS A SLUGGISH PROCESS. BACTERIA CAN TAKE WEEKS TO GROW, AND ONLY
THEN CAN ANN DETERMINE IF IT SHOWS PROMISE AGAINST DRUG-RESISTANT SUPERBUGS. ANN: Initially we found hundreds of bacteria. We tried to isolate bacteria that live in the
Iron Curtain Cave in the lab, and we found fourteen of them, initially, that show activity
against multidrug-resistant bacteria, all those bad bacteria. AT THAT POINT, THE SAMPLES LEAVE ANN’S LAB
FOR GENOME SEQUENCING. ANN: Now we actually singled out for the two
of them, so we have the two hopefully superheros right now. OUT OF THE HUNDREDS OF SAMPLES SHE COLLECTED,
ONLY TWO HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO BE WHAT ANN CALLS “SUPERHERO BACTERIA.” BUT JUST BECAUSE THEY WORK IN A PETRI DISH
DOESN’T MEAN THEY WILL WORK IN HUMANS. IT WILL TAKE BILLIONS OF DOLLARS AND MANY YEARS
TO MOVE FORWARD WITH ANY POTENTIAL DRUG, AND THERE’S VERY LITTLE PROFIT TO BE HAD. THAT’S WHY THERE’S BEEN SLOW, IF ANY,
PROGRESS IN THE LAST FEW YEARS. ANN: I do believe that we have solutions,
but all of us have to work together, not just scientists, not just politicians, not just
the pharmaceutical companies, not just the policymakers… every one of us needs to understand the implications
of overuse and misuse of antibiotics in our society, and how we can reduce that. ANN DOESN’T LET THE DAUNTING
COMPLICATIONS WAIVER HER. INSTEAD, HER SEARCH CONTINUES. ANN: This cave gets its name because of this
beautiful backdrop here; you can see that it takes numbers of years,
possibly millions of years, to form… I can imagine how many species of bacteria
and microorganisms that live in that structure, that formation. And maybe… maybe one of them could
actually be our superhero that could produce new antibiotics for us one day. [THIS EPISODE WAS PRESENTED BY THE U.S. AIR
FORCE. LEARN MORE AT AIR FORCE.COM.] For more episodes of Science in the Extremes, check out this one right here. Don’t forget to subscribe, and come back to Seeker for more episodes. Thanks for watching!

100 Replies to “Is the Cure for Superbugs Hiding Deep Under the Earth?”

  1. Nova Scotia was polluted with bats and now there's none and it only took a few years. I really hope she finds a way to help.

  2. Cant we just purge all the people that abused antibiotics and accept the consequences for allowing stupidity to foster in our societies as an aspect of "freedom".

  3. Thats why you dont self medicated especially when youre dealing with antibiotics. Finish the prescribed # of days even whrn you feel better. These are some reasons why antibiotics are not as effective as they are.

  4. No humans are just really really dumb every time someone sneezes they pop antibiotics and the bacteria builds a tolerance and mutates even if we do find a new antibiotic the same will happen you can't cure stupid

  5. It doesn't surprise me. We have a potentially new problem that could wipe out half of mankind. But companies don't want anything to do with it because there's "not a lot of profit" typical…

  6. it would be better if we didnt have antibiotics. people who have weak immune systems that should be be killed by the bacteria are living and reproducing, passing on bad genes and weakening the human race as a whole.

  7. We use antibiotics for basically everything now. And that’s why we have this problem, I believe Ann is doing good. But in the sense it would only work for so long.

  8. As a developer I clicked on the link expecting, just for a moment, a completely different topic. I got baited. GJ.
    Interesting, though.

  9. I read the title wrong. I thought the super bugs would be living in the deep earth. This is interesting but not as cool as super bugs. Find some super bugs please.

  10. Better figure out how we can use crocodile blood or their anti bodies to help beat these super bugs. Blood from crocodiles or alligators kills just about every infection.

  11. To think that it won't be a catastrophic solar flare, an asteroid, humans deteriorating the health of the planet to unsustainable levels, or humans nuclear bombing each other into oblivion, but microbiology that will end us……….

  12. We need to stop relying on antibiotics/making new ones and start working on how to build up/train a humans immune to adapt faster than the bad bacteria

  13. I have a bad feeling that the best place to find bacteria and molds that might comprise new antibiotics is going to be found in some garbage dumps and toxic waste heaps, instead.

  14. We need to use bacteriophages. These superbugs can only be resistant to antibiotics or bacteriophages, not both. So, once they develop an immunity to one, we’d use the other. It’d sort of be like ‘seasons’ of medicines we use. But still, i really respect these people going down in caves like that, and especially the cameraman.

  15. We are so dumb that we use the same antibiotics for intensive farm where the animals develop bacteria resistance so even a wrong exposure to raw meat can lead to an infection. Some countries of Europe have already started to do something about it, reducing drastically the amount of antibiotics that you can use for animals. We have to stop intensive farms and eat more vegetables.

  16. "…we have to be careful about misuse of antibiotics…"
    Yet, that is what she is proposing, so of course she will want to persist her research because of her own investment. Big pharma is lickin their chops, too, what better way to maintain their profits; ensuring every drug they invent has the potential of becoming innocuous due to new mutations, resulting in new resistances.

  17. Continue using them so heavily in factory farming of animals and eventually none of them will be effective.

  18. She's so dedicated to doing this for the betterment of the future, guaranteeing the survival of human race, what an amazing person

  19. Now thats a proper real women right there, liberal feminists should stop hating the world n learn something from her.

  20. We cannot continue to rely on antibiotics and the production of new antibiotics, as bacteria will simply evolve to be resistant against them. What we need are bacteriophages, which are capable of evolving alongside the bacteria. The problem is that pharmaceuticals in the US and many western countries are so dependent on the single patented isolate drug system that they are unwilling to accept the limitless potential of bacteriophages, despite the numerous lives that can be saved.

  21. The word "Superbug" is clickbait. I thought this was a video about some kind of prehistoric creature that we've never seen before… Not vaccine resistant bacteria.

  22. Time to go to iceland, just need to grab whatsisname and that lady from the volcanic institute. Watch out for bacteria-rex

  23. God bless Ann and her team you guys do great work for us kids in the future and the billions of people on this planet

  24. It's called colloidal silver cures superbugs for dinner just like superbugs eat antibiotics for lunch. The best brand is sovereign silver because it has the smallest particle, .8 nanometers and purest silver ions 99.999 % and pharmaceutical grade water when talking purity here, this translates into no Argyria or blue skin in it's 19 YEAR history of this company. It's super safe and very effective it's the most antimicrobial substance known to man. It's antibacterial, antiviral and anti fungus. Unlike antibiotics colloidal silver has multiple modes of action so bacteria can't grow resistance to it, you would think it would have done so already, silver has been around forever the same with bacteria.

  25. Why are we not pursuing the cataloging and administering of bacteriophage s ? These are natural enemies of bacteria that offer no harm to anything but the bacteria? Researching more drugs leads to the same problem over and over again! LEARN bacteriophage and to administer to bacteria and stop the reoccurring madness!

  26. Bugs will always evolve an immunity/resistance to whatever defenses they encounter.

    They have played this game for billions of years and can outplay us at any turn.We havent even "cured" HIV yet, 100years in the game.

  27. My only question is… No weapons in these caves? We have horror movies for this same reason, you're going into a cave undiscovered enriched with life of all kinds and degrees hidden in those caves… You mean to tell me not one person thought "so,listen guys I'm down for finding new researched treatments but listen, I have also seen the decent back in… Ummm… Listen doesn't matter those bitches all died for this same reason, let's get some weapons just to be safe yeah"

  28. 4:48 the bacteria doesn’t have advanced communication and they don’t stay alive in extreme cold; refrigerator🤔 You are killing them before any experiments induced🤔🎯 of course I’m not a specialist.

  29. You retards. There is no such thing as "deep under the earth", because any planets position in space there is no up and there is no down. Perhaps you mean "deep INSIDE the earth".

  30. They want to bring back a bacteria to fight super bug but didnt they think for one second that bringing back a bacteria is going to be the Superbug

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