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Biocide-resistant microbes threaten Lascaux cave art

Biocides used in recent years to treat the growth of a black fungus on the art-festooned walls of the Lascaux cave in France have eliminated a lot of bacterial and fungi populations, but have also created biocide-resistant strains.

Human presence has caused problems in Lascaux almost since its discovery in 1940. Lights added so tourists could see the cave art, images of bulls and other creatures believed to be painted more than 17,000 years ago, triggered the growth of algae. The heat from those lights — as well as tourists’ body heat and exhalations, the skin cells they shed and the microbes they unwittingly tracked in — changed the cave environment drastically, Alabouvette says.

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