Mercury From Dental Amalgam Creates Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

Mercury From Dental Amalgam Creates Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria


My name is Anne Summers and I’m on the faculty at the University of Georgia in Athens I teach microbiology and I do
research using microorganisms I’ve been working for oh well let’s say since
1969 on Mercury as a subject of interest I began working on this when I was a doctoral
student at Washington University in St. Louis up until the late 80s I had worked on mercury strictly as a phenomenon of
bacterial resistance and it was a nice model system. You could do all kinds of
physiology and biochemistry and it was fun to do and easy to work on and we had
lots of interest from NIH and NSF in supporting and I remember very
distinctly it was a winter afternoon in December I think that I happened to flip
open a copy of the FASEB Journal which is a general life sciences
medically oriented journal and I saw this paper which had a picture of a sheep with radio on autography demonstration of all the mercury that was in the sheep and I thought wow that’s really strange and it was their very first paper which was
published in the FASEB J and showed that when you put fillings into an
animal that the mercury goes everywhere in some places more than others as has
been pointed out in the jaw and the and the kidney and so forth and particularly
in the GI tract in the gut in other words and so I picked up the phone at
that point and I called Fritz Lorscheider and I said I’d found his study very interesting and then I’d worked on mercury
and bacteria and I asked him if he knew anything about mercury resistant bacteria and he said he’d never heard of such a thing so we had a conversation
that ended up in establishing a plan to go forward to collaborate with him
because they’d already begun to work on the monkeys they did all of the housing
of the animals the feeding of the animals and so forth up in Calgary and
and they put the fillings in in a regular dental operatory and so forth
that they had there so and then they sent us the samples of monkey feces
freshly collected in each day or actually twice a week. We then immediately did bacteriological work on them that allowed us to see the two
things that we were particularly interested in where how many of the
micro-organisms that we were cultivating and we cultivated three, no three
different types of bacteria from the monkey feces and we had a way to figure
out how many of them were mercury resistant and what proportion were
mercury resistant of the total and what proportion also carried antibiotic
resistance genes and the reason we were interested in
asking that question was because we already knew the whole world knew that the genes for mercury
resistance, I should say the whole world of microbial well I should actually say the small world of
people interested in antibiotic resistance in bacteria knew that the genes for mercury resistance were carried on bacterial plasmids which
also carried antibiotic resistance genes and now bacterial plasmids are little
supernumerary chromosomes that bacteria can kind of exchange with each other
like sort of like little apps that you can exchange with your friends that
allow you to be resistant to things and so the mercury resistance genes
being on the same plasmids as antibiotic resistance genes, if you expose a
bacterial community to antibiotics of course that will cause the bacteria to
persist as antibiotic resistance bacteria and people were concerned about
that already because they knew that overuse of antibiotics was causing a
prevalence and spread of antibiotic multi resistance in humans which is a
problem. And we were interested in this experiment to see whether or not
exposure of animals with their microorganisms to mercury resulting in
the exposure of the microbes themselves to mercury would cause a persistence and
prevalence not only of the mercury resistance but also the antibiotic
resistance because of genetic linkage if you pick the mercury resistance
you can carry along the antibiotic resistance as well so that was the purpose of
those experiments and that paper was published in antimicrobial
agents and chemotherapy in April of 93 and it made the case that exposure of
these primates which are a reasonably good model for human biology and
microbiology to mercury resulted in a proliferation of
microbes in their gut that had both mercury resistance and multiple antibiotic resistance and that in the early monkeys that we work with them on,
the fillings were taken out after 2 months and so we could see a decline in
mercury resistant bacteria and antibiotic multi-resistant bacteria
after that period so that clearly associated them with the exposure of mercury in of the
microbiota of the animals that we were looking at and the animals didn’t have
any exposure to any other mercury and in a couple of the cases they were working
with radioactive mercury so it wasn’t an issue of you know getting the mercury
from their diet or anything like that but they also were not of course eating
fish and the they we arranged within ahead of time that the monkeys were the
kind of animal chow that they had had no antibiotics in it because there are some laboratory Chows (FOOD) which are amended with antibiotics so
that the animals will not come down with something while they’re doing an
experiment on something else so we have data on the development of mercury and
multiple antibiotic resistance in the normal flora and that included both the
oral flora as well as the GI tract flora in these animals that had amalgam
fillings and the only source of mercury was from the amalgam fillings and so in all those cases there was a proliferation of antibiotic multi
resistance along with mercury resistance subsequent to the installation
of the fillings and it was statistically significant we had
we did statistics on those data and it was a statistically significant difference after the installation of the amalgams for both the mercury resistance and
the antibiotic resistance

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