06 August 2006

John Franklin carried antibiotic resistance

A century or two ago, a chap named John Franklin made a number of Arctic exploratory trips, leading up to a final, fatal one.

What makes this remarkable is that Uni of Alberta researchers (particularly Dr Kinga Kowalewska-Grochowska) did some autopsies on (frozen) expedition members many years later, and discovered that of the six groups of bacteria preserved in the corpses, three carried anti-biotic resistance.

Note that this includes resistance to anti-biotics developed more than a century after the men died. One wonders whether our understanding of how resistant organisms form is as complete as we like to think it is.

The final expedition was memorable in its own way, with evidence of events like scurvy, lead poisoning & attempts at cannibalism on the record. This after John’s naming as “the man who ate his boots” from an earlier expedition.

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