Even as the veggie blame game is now underway across the EU, where a super resistant strain of e.coli is sickening patients and filling hospitals in Germany, virtually no one is talking about how e.coli could have magically become resistant to eight different classes of antibiotic drugs and then suddenly appeared in the food supply.
This particular e.coli variation is a member of the O104 strain, and O104 strains are almost never (normally) resistant to antibiotics. In order for them to acquire this resistance, they must be repeatedly exposed to antibiotics in order to provide the "mutation pressure" that nudges them toward complete drug immunity.
So if you're curious about the origins of such a strain, you can essentially reverse engineer the genetic code of the e.coli and determine fairly accurately which antibiotics it was exposed to during its development. This step has now been done (see below), and when you look at the genetic decoding of this O104 strain now threatening food consumers across the EU, a fascinating picture emerges of how it must have come into existence.
The genetic code reveals the history
When scientists at Germany's Robert Koch Institute decoded the genetic makeup of the O104 strain, they found it to be resistant to all the following classes and combinations of antibiotics:
amoxicillin / clavulanic acid
In addition, this O104 strain posses an ability to produce special enzymes that give it what might be called "bacteria superpowers" known technically as ESBLs:
"Extended-Spectrum Beta-Lactamases (ESBLs) are enzymes that can be produced by bacteria making them resistant to cephalosporins e.g. cefuroxime, cefotaxime and ceftazidime - which are the most widely used antibiotics in many hospitals," explains the Health Protection Agency in the UK.
On top of that, this O104 strain possesses two genes -- TEM-1 and CTX-M-15 -- that "have been making doctors shudder since the 1990s," reports The Guardian. And why do they make doctors shudder? Because they're so deadly that many people infected with such bacteria experience critical organ failure and simply die.
Bioengineering a deadly superbug
So how, exactly, does a bacterial strain come into existence that's resistant to over a dozen antibiotics in eight different drug classes, and features two deadly gene mutations plus ESBL enzyme capabilities?
There's really only one way this happens (and only one way) -- you have to expose this strain of e.coli to all eight classes of antibiotics drugs. Usually this isn't done at the same time, of course: You first expose it to penicillin and find the surviving colonies which are resistant to penicillin. You then take those surviving colonies and expose them to tetracycline. The surviving colonies are now resistant to both penicillin and tetracycline. You then expose them to a sulfa drug and collect the surviving colonies from that, and so on. It is a process of genetic selection done in a laboratory with a desired outcome. This is essentially how some bioweapons are engineered by the U.S. Army in its laboratory facility in Ft. Detrick, Maryland.
Although the actual process is more complicated than this, the upshot is that creating a strain of e.coli that's resistant to eight classes of antibiotics requires repeated, sustained exposure to those antibiotics. It is virtually impossible to imagine how this could happen all by itself in the natural world. For example, if this bacteria originated in the food (as we've been told), then where did it acquire all this antibiotic resistance, given the fact that antibiotics are not used in vegetables?
When considering the genetic evidence that now confronts us, it is difficult to imagine how this could happen "in the wild." While resistance to a single antibiotic is common, the creation of a strain of e.coli that's resistant to eight different classes of antibiotics -- in combination -- simply defies the laws of genetic permutation and combination in the wild. Simply put, this superbug e.coli strain could not have been created in the wild. And that leaves only one explanation for where it really came from: the lab.
Engineered and then released into the wild
The evidence now points to this deadly strain of e.coli being engineered and then either being released into the food supply or somehow escaping from a lab and entering the food supply inadvertently. If you disagree with that conclusion -- and you're certainly welcome to -- then you are forced to conclude that this octobiotic superbug (immune to eight classes of antibiotics) developed randomly on its own... and that conclusion is far scarier than the "bio-engineered" explanation because it means octobiotic superbugs can simply appear anywhere at any time without cause. That would be quite an exotic theory indeed.
My conclusion actually makes more sense: This strain of e.coli was almost certainly engineered and then released into the food supply for a specific purpose. What would that purpose be? It's obvious, I hope.
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