Antibiotic Resistance

Have you ever had to pay multiple visits to a doctor because the prescribed medication for illness just wasn’t working? This might occurred because of a natural phenomenon termed ABR or antibiotic resistance. So what is ABR? According to the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics of the Tufts University Medical School, antibiotic resistance “occurs when an antibiotic has lost its ability to effectively control or kill bacterial growth”1. The bacteria become resistant to certain antibiotics and such therapy is rendered ineffective.

Bacteria achieve antibiotic resistance through natural phenomenon related to genetics and evolutionary mechanisms. Some bacteria in a population appear to be resistant to a specific type of antibiotic (or multiple antibiotics) due to random genetic mutation. Once antibiotics are deployed on the site of infection, the non-resistant bacteria are eliminated and the resistant bacteria are left alive. The antibiotics create a “selective pressure” that promote the survival of the resistant bacteria1. Furthermore, these bacteria will reproduce and their offspring inherit the resistant traits thus creating a new fully resistant population.

Bacteria also have multiple robust mechanisms that enable the proliferation of ABR. Their offspring can inherit resistant traits “vertically”, or they can share genetic information with other bacteria “horizontally” through a process termed conjugation1. Adding to the fact that bacteria can survive on many surfaces and travel easily on unsuspecting flights and water travel, ABR is able to spread amongst bacteria quickly.

Studies conducted by the World Health Organization show that ABR is not only a concern for the future, but also a very current worldwide issue. In 2013, there were approximately 480,000 cases of multi-drug resistant Tuberculosis evident in around 100 countries2. Like other cases of antibiotic resistant bacteria, multi-drug resistant Tuberculosis requires extended and arduous methods of treatment as the bacteria is stubborn to common antibiotic treatment.

Evidently, ABR is a current real-world issue with the potential to further escalate. This issue should be studied and better understood in order to develop alternatives to remedy the problems ABR creates.

References:

1 “General Background: About Antibiotic Resistance.” APUA. 2014. Accessed June 08, 2016. http://emerald.tufts.edu/med/apua/about_issue/about_antibioticres.shtml.

2 “Antimicrobial Resistance.” World Health Organization. Accessed June 08, 2016. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs194/en/.

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