An Overview ofAntibiotic Resistance in Bacteria In1928, Dr. Alexander Fleming made an incredible discovery when he noticed that amold called Penicillium notatum which had contaminated his petri disks waspreventing the normal growth of the staphylococci. It was at that point thatantibiotics entered the battle against bacterial infection. Ever since the1940’s, antibiotics have been prevalent in treating patients with infectiousdiseases. However, because some antibiotics have been used widely over a longperiod of time, many pathogens have evolved and developed resistance againstantibiotics. Antibiotic resistant pathogens can make it quite challenging totreat diseases, and some pathogens are developing so much immunity that theyare practically unstoppable. According to the CDC, “Each year in the UnitedStates, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that areresistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a directresult of these infections.
” Antibiotic resistance possess a major problem forthe future. Firstly,different antibiotics function differently. Beta-Lactam antibiotics preventbacteria from rebuilding the cell wall, leading to unstained pressure build upwhich bursts the bacteria.
Macrolide antibiotics prevent bacterial ribosomesfrom functioning, thus cutting off protein synthesis and ending the life of thebacteria. Quinolone antibiotics causes the DNA of bacteria to fall apart.Because animal and plant cells are structurally different from bacteria,antibiotics cannot harm us, however friendly bacteria such as E. Coli in theintestine can also die. Allorganisms experience mutations in their DNA sequences. In haploid organisms, ifa mutation does not impede an organism’s survival, then the mutation will bepassed to the offspring. This can come as an advantage to asexual organisms. Accordingto the U.
S. Food and Drug Administration, “bacterium can double within 20 to 30minutes.” Because bacteria can produce hundreds of generations in a matter ofdays, mutations can stack up to cause bacteria to develop immunity towardsantibiotics.
This is where natural selection comes into play. In gene pool ofbacteria, if antibiotics are introduced into the system, bacteria withoutresistance will die out, leaving only resistant bacteria in the system but withless competition for resources. Recently, researchers have found that bacteriacan share its genome with other bacteria through a process called conjugation.Through conjugation, the numbers of resistant bacteria can increasesignificantly faster. Although antibiotic resistance is ideal for the humanmicrobiome, it is highly undesirable for pathogens. Howresistance works is that bacteria may develop new methods of rebuilding theircell walls, new protein structures which antibiotics can’t chemically identify,or even defense mechanisms which destroy antibiotics. Methicillin-ResistantStaphylococcus Aureus (or MRSA), for example, has developed a mechanism whichcan rebuild the bacterial cell wall, rendering beta lactam antibioticsobsolete. Strands of salmonella have been found to produce enzymes which breakdown antibiotics.
Thesurge of antibiotic resistant bacteria can be attributed to human activity.Antibiotic resistance is being accelerated by misuse and overuse of antibioticsin both the agricultural and hospital environment. In the agriculturalindustry, antibiotics are used in animals and crops in massive amounts. As aresult, pathogenic bacteria in animals can become resistant to antibiotics.Animals carrying resistant bacteria can spread the super bug through feceswhich can contaminate soil and crops, and even bodies of water due to run off.In the health care world, the over prescription of antibiotics, and poorinfection prevention and control can lead to higher rates of bacterialresistance. Countries with easy access to antibiotics without prescriptionshave a higher risk of developing antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Due to theprevalence of antibiotics in hospitals, even developed nations are at risk ofhaving a super bacteria outbreak. Humanityis at an arms race with pathogens (not just bacteria). The development ofantibiotics has slowed down, and recent developments are not effective towardscombat with resistant bacteria. However, researches are developing alternativestowards treating antibiotic resistant bacteria. Currently, new treatments arebeing developed such as bacteriophage in which viruses are used to killbacteria.
Researchers are also examining the oligodynamic effect, which is aneffect which metals exhibit which is quite harmful to bacteria. Brass andsilver are particularly efficient in combating bacteria, and even if metals can’tbe incorporated into medicine, the healthcare industry can make all medicalequipment out of silver to make surgical and other interventionist proceduressafer. An emphasis is being placed on the development of new vaccinationsagainst antimicrobial resistant pathogens for in the end, our body’s defenseswill be one of our most crucial weapon. Whendealing with all super bugs, it is crucial to change practices regardingantibiotics. If the war against pathogenic bacteria is not deescalated,bacteria will continue to evolve, and the stronger the medicine you throw atthem, the stronger they get. Firstly, the agricultural sector should cease touse antibiotics on a large scale. Rather than using antibiotics, it is betterfor animals to be vaccinated. Agriculturalists cannot continue to useantibiotics to promote growth in animals and crops.
When antibiotics are usedon animals, it should be done under the supervision of a veterinarian. Healthcareproviders need to create cleaner environments and provide a better code ofprocedure to avoid negligence. Doctors all over the world need to prescribe anddispense antibiotics only when they are needed according to guidelines. As forindividuals, it is important to use antibiotics directly as instructed by a physician,not demand antibiotics when not necessary, never share or use leftoverantibiotics, and practice healthier habits (such as hand washing, gettingvaccines, practicing safe sex, preparing food hygienically, etc.
). Bacteriahave got to be one of the most impressive organisms in the world. Often calledthe mother species, bacteria is older than history. Most bacteria are essentialtowards the environment, taking the role of a decomposer, cleansing the air,and allowing animals to digest. Although there are plenty of pathogenicbacteria out there, healthy bacteria can outnumber pathogens, and the morefriendly bacteria in an ecosystem, the more difficult it is for pathogens tosurvive due to competitions. Although the statistics have not actually been provento be true, it is said that for every human cell, there are 10 bacteria cellsin our body.
Bacteria are part of our body’s flora and fauna and they assistour bodies to perform many tasks. It would be ideal to strengthen thesefriendly bacteria, because the stronger our helpers are, the tougher it is forpathogens to invade our bodies.