Posts tagged: genetic mutations

Antibiotic Resistance: How A Global Health Problem Develops

The public sphere has been pumped full of information about how unnecessary use of antibiotics contributes to the development of resistant bacterial strains. Just take a look at this news article suggesting that more than 25 million pounds of antibiotics are given to livestock every year. However, what is less often explained is how this works at the molecular level. How does bacteria develop antibiotic resistance?

The World Health Organization has called antibiotic resistance one of the greatest global health concerns to date.

Before answering that question it is important to understand how bacterial cells work. Bacterial cells look and work differently than say a cell from our body. They have a genetic code (within DNA) but some of that code floats freely within the cell in circular structures called plasmids. One of the particularities of bacterial cells is their ability to pass plasmids amongst each other (plasmid transfer), allowing them to share traits on an extremely rapid scale. Furthermore, one bacterium can divide into two cells without the need for sexual reproduction between two parent cells.

Like us, bacteria survive on chemical based processes, which allow them to grow and replicate. Protein molecules are essential to these processes. They allow for three things:

  • Destroy/change other molecules
  • Form physical structures and barriers
  • Help build new molecules

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