C. Diff Is Evolving Into Superbug in Response to Western Sugary Diets
KATERYNA KON / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images
One of the most widespread bacteria known to cause serious gut infections is evolving to take advantage of high-sugar diets in the West and resist disinfecting methods used in healthcare settings.
The diarrhea and colitis-causing bacteria Clostridioides difficile, or C. Diff, is common throughout our environment and results in nearly 500,000 infections in the U.S. each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, which can be fatal for elderly and very sick people who have been hospitalized or given antibiotics.
According to Mayo Clinic, C. Diff spores are often spread orally by contact with feces, which makes its way to food and other surfaces when an infected person fails to wash their hands thoroughly. The spores damage the lining of your intestine, potentially leading to severely dehydrating diarrhea, inflammation of the intestines, toxic megacolon and sepsis.
C. Diff is so common in our surroundings that even some healthy adults will carry it in their system but are protected from severe symptoms by their healthy gut bacteria, The Atlantic reported. But antibiotics used to treat other infections can unintentionally eliminate the healthy bacteria, allowing C. Diff to thrive, cause an infection and spread to the environment when passed in diarrhea, NBC News reported.
Recent research has shown that C. Diff can spread to and exist for months on disposable hospital gowns, stainless steel and vinyl surfaces often found in health facilities, even after being hit with concentrated chlorine disinfectant. A new study by the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine might have revealed why.
The study found that C. Diff has been evolving into two species over thousands of years, one of which is adapting into a superbug primed to spread in hospitals.
"The study shows how the pathogen C. Difficile is evolving in response to the Western sugary diet and common hospital disinfectants," study author Nitin Kumar, a senior bioinformatician at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, told Popular Science.
For the study, published this week in Nature Genetics, the researchers sequenced the DNA of 906 different C. Diff strains from humans, other mammals such as dogs and pigs, and the environment. Kumar told Live Science that groups of organisms must share 95 percent of their genomes to be considered the same species, and based on the sequenced genomes, C. Diff is "on the verge of speciation."
The researchers found that one of the emerging species, C. Difficile clade A, was found in 70 percent of samples taken from hospital patients. A common trait of the new species was a mutation developed over thousands of years to improve sugar metabolism. When exposed to mice, the new species was more likely to flourish if the mice were fed diets enriched with simple sugars, like glucose and fructose, commonly consumed as part of the typical Western diet.
The New York Post reported that common hospital foods, such as pudding cups and mashed potatoes, could become hotspots for this new C. Diff. species.
The new species also had genetic mutations that changed how it formed spores, making it more resistant to disinfectants used in hospitals.
"Our study provides genome and laboratory based evidence that human lifestyles can drive bacteria to form new species so they can spread more effectively," senior author Trevor Lawley of the Wellcome Sanger Institute said in a press release.
"We show that strains of C. Difficile bacteria have continued to evolve in response to modern diets and healthcare systems and reveal that focusing on diet and looking for new disinfectants could help in the fight against this bacteria."
Writing for @EcoWatch: An analysis looking for more than a dozen common antibiotics in 711 rivers in one-third of the world's countries found that concentrations in some rivers were more than 300 times higher than "safe" levels.https://t.co/gXaBeASQeQ— Madison Dapcevich (@madisondap) May 29, 2019
By Jessica Corbett
This story was originally published on Common Dreams on September 19, 2020.
Some advocates kicked off next week's Climate Week NYC early Saturday by repurposing the Metronome, a famous art installation in Union Square that used to display the time of day, as a massive "Climate Clock" in an effort to pressure governments worldwide to take swift, bold action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and rein in human-caused global heating.
<div id="0bde7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="002ce26d8d0c627f76d752e14d234d6e"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1307397838884741121" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">LIVE: #ClimateClock about to go live at Union square replacing the atronomical clock, with a carbon countdown!… https://t.co/5OzxwUwWDf</div> — Greg Schwedock🌹(⧖) (@Greg Schwedock🌹(⧖))<a href="https://twitter.com/GregSchwedock/statuses/1307397838884741121">1600542909.0</a></blockquote></div><p>A mobile climate clock that Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg "now carries with her, as well as the larger Climate Clock project, was assembled by a team of artists, makers, scientists, and activists based in New York, and is part of the Beautiful Trouble community of projects," according to <a href="https://climateclock.world/" target="_blank">Climateclock.world</a>, which details the science behind the numbers displayed and how to install clocks in other cities.</p>
- 5 Virtual Events to Check Out This Climate Week NYC - EcoWatch ›
- Covering Climate Now Highlights Solutions for Earth Week - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg means the nation's highest court has lost a staunch advocate for women's rights and civil rights. Ginsburg was a tireless worker, who continued to serve on the bench through multiple bouts of cancer. She also leaves behind a complicated environmental legacy, as Environment and Energy News (E&E News) reported.
- Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Cross-State Air Pollution Rule ... ›
- Supreme Court Upholds Virginia's Ban on Uranium Mining - EcoWatch ›
- In Major Win for Indigenous Rights, Supreme Court Rules Much of ... ›
Project goal: To create an environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative to leather, in this case using fungi.
The plastic recycling model was never economically viable, but oil and gas companies still touted it as a magic solution to waste, selling the American public a lie so the companies could keep pushing new plastic.
- U.S. Products Labeled Recyclable Really Aren't, Greenpeace ... ›
- The Recycling Dilemma: Good Plastic, Bad plastic? - EcoWatch ›
- The Complex and Frustrating Reality of Recycling Plastic - EcoWatch ›
By Pamela Davis-Kean
With in-person instruction becoming the exception rather than the norm, 54% of parents with school-age children expressed concern that their children could fall behind academically, according to a poll conducted over the summer of 2020. Initial projections from the Northwest Evaluation Association, which conducts research and creates commonly used standardized tests, suggest that these fears are well-grounded, especially for children from low-income families.
- How Other Countries Reopened Schools During the Pandemic ... ›
- Young People Are Primary Coronavirus Spreaders, WHO Warns ... ›
- How Families Can Boost Kids' Mental Health During the Pandemic ... ›