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, antibiotics were used to treat 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. The
more times a person uses the drug, the more it will
decrease its effect on the bacteria. Another cause of
resistance is the improper use of drugs. When patients feel
that the symptoms of their disease have disappeared, they
often stop taking the drug prematurely and the bacteria has
a chance to revive.
One antibiotic that will always have a long lasting effect
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, and also noticed
a fungus growth in that area. He then discovered that this
mold contained a substance that killed bacteria and he
called it 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 the bacteria dies.
After four years, when drug companies started to mass
produce penicillin, in 1943, the first signs of
penicillin-resistant bacteria started to appear. 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 were so effective, 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, measures are being taken to control
infections by identifying drug resistant infections and
prevent diseases from spreading. The World Health
Organization 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 had finally won the
battle with bacteria. But now since antibiotic resistance
is increasing rapidly, new strategies must be developed to
destroy these microbes.
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