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Getting Physical: Biological Causes of Antibiotic Resistance

Amanda Stevenson-Grund - Friday, May 20, 2016

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that annually, at least two million illnesses and 23,000 deaths are caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the United States alone.” – National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria. 2014: 1

A close-up of bacteria represents the threat that is antibiotic resistance.

In history books and in fiction, the Resistance often refers to a group of underdogs fighting against the tyranny of an evil power. In World War II, the French Resistance opposed the Nazis. In Star Wars, the Resistance plotted against Darth Vader. In biology, this theme is reversed. Antibiotics, for example, are failing, and antibiotic resistance is a powerful and growing problem for which we have few solutions. Antibiotic resistance has both societal and biological causes. Three biological causes of antibiotic resistance are selective pressure, gene transfer and natural resistance and mutations.

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Pocket of Resistance: Societal Causes of Antibiotic Resistance

Amanda Stevenson-Grund - Friday, May 06, 2016

It is estimated that over half of antibiotics prescribed for patients who visit a clinic in the United States are inappropriate. These patients are most commonly seeking care for acute respiratory infections that are caused by viruses.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work. 2015

Antibiotics, when used properly, kill bacteria.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” This certainly does not always apply to human patients, but it does apply to bacteria. Antibiotics are supposed to kill bacteria, but if even one bacterium that has been exposed to antibiotics survives, it can evolve and multiply into a multitude of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.” Societal causes of antibiotic resistance include over-prescription of antibiotics, patient noncompliance and exposure to other antimicrobial agents.

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