Antibiotic Resistance In Bacteria

For about 50 years, antibiotics have been the answer to many bacterial infections. Antibiotics

are chemical substances that are secreted by living things. Doctors prescribed these medicines to

cure many diseases. During World War II, it treated one of the biggest killers during wartime -

infected wounds. It was the beginning of the antibiotic era. But just when antibiotics were being

mass produced, bacteria started to evolve and became resistant to these medicines.

Antibiotic resistance can be the result of different things. One cause of resistance could be drug

abuse. There are people who believe that when they get sick, antibiotics are the answer. The

more times you use a drug, the more it will decrease the effect it has on you. That is because the

bacteria has found a way to avoid the effects of that antibiotic. Another cause of resistance is the

improper use of drugs. When patients feel that the symptoms of their disease have improved,

they often stop taking the drug. Just because the symptoms have disappeared it does not mean the

disease has gone away. Prescribed drugs should be taken until all the medicine is gone so the

disease is completely finished. If it is not, then this will just give the bacteria some time to find a

way to avoid the effects of the drug.

One antibiotic that will always have a long lasting effect in history is penicillin. This was the

first antibiotic ever to be discovered. Alexander Fleming was the person responsible for the

discovery in 1928. In his laboratory, he noticed that in some of his bacteria colonies, that he was

growing, were some clear spots. He realized that something had killed the bacteria in these clear

spots, which ended up to be a fungus growth. He then discovered that inside this mold was a

substance that killed bacteria.

It was the antibiotic, penicillin.

Penicillin became the most powerful germ-killer known at that time. Antibiotics kill

disease-causing bacteria by interfering with their processes. Penicillin kills bacteria by

attaching to their cell walls. Then it destroys part of the wall. The cell wall breaks apart and

bacteria dies.

After four years, when drug companies started to mass produce penicillin, in 1943, the first signs

of penicillin-resistant bacteria started to show up. The first bacteria that fought penicillin was

called Staphylococcus aureus. This bug is usually harmless but can cause an illness such as

pneumonia. In 1967, another penicillin-resistant bacteria formed. It was called pneumococcus

and it broke out in a small village in Papua New Guinea. Other penicillin resistant bacteria that

formed are Enterococcus faecium and a new strain of gonorrhea.

Antibiotic resistance can occur by a mutation of DNA in bacteria or DNA acquired from another

bacteria that is drug-resistant through transformation. Penicillin-resistant bacteria can alter their

cell walls so penicillin can not attach to it. The bacteria can also produce different enzymes that

can take apart the antibiotic.

Since antibiotics became so prosperous, all other strategies to fight bacterial diseases were put

aside. Now since the effects of antibiotics are decreasing and antibiotic resistance is increasing,

new research on how to battle bacteria is starting.

Antibiotic resistance spreads fast but efforts are being made to slow it. Improving infection

control, discovering new antibiotics, and taking drugs more appropriately are ways to prevent

resistant bacteria from spreading. In developing nations, approaches are being made to control

infections such as hand washing by health care people, and identifying drug resistant infections

quickly to keep them away from others. The World Health Organization has began a global

computer program that reports any outbreaks of drug-resistant bacterial infections.

In the early 1900's, the discovery of penicillin began the antibiotic era. People thought they have

finally won the battle with bacteria. But now since antibiotic resistance is increasing rapidly,

new strategies must be developed to destroy these microbes. To many scientists the antibiotic

era is over


Bylinsky, Gene. Sept. 5,1995. The new fight against killer microbes.

Fortune. p. 74-76.

Dixon, Bernard. March 17,1995. Return of the killer bugs.

New Statesman & Society. p. 29-32.

Levy, Stuart B. Jan. 15,1995. Dawn of the post-antibiotic era?

Patient Care. p. 84-86.

Lewis, Ricki. Sept. 1995. The rise of antibiotic-resistant infections.

FDA Consumer. p. 11-15.

Miller, Julie Ann. June 1995. Preparing for the postantibiotic era.

BioScience. p. 384-392.

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