The earliest relatives of antibiotic resistant bacteria, known as the enterococci, had evolved 450 million years ago, even before the dinosaurs.
Superbugs arose from an ancestor that dates back 450 million years, according to a new study led by researchers from Massachusetts Eye and Ear, the Harvard-wide Program on Antibiotic Resistance and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.
Enterococci bacteria or the superbugs that infect patients and are resistant to drugs have been honing their defensive capabilities for more than 450 million years.
These antibiotic resistant bacteria are one of the biggest public health concerns. They are spreading rapidly in hospitals.
According to the World Health Organization, they infect millions of people every year.
Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the antibiotic-resistant bacteria infect 70,000 and kill more than 1,000 Americans every year.
The new species of enterococci appeared whenever new types of animals appeared.
This includes when new types of animals arose right after they first crawled onto land, and when new types of animals arose right after mass extinctions, especially the greatest mass extinction, the End Permian Extinction (251 million years ago), the researchers said, in the paper published in the journal Cell.
The researchers found that all species of enterococci, including those that have never been found in hospitals, were naturally resistant to dryness, starvation, disinfectants and many antibiotics.