Preventing Bacteria from Creating Resistance to Drugs

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Preventing Bacteria from Creating Resistance to Drugs

In 1943, the antibiotic era began when penicillin, a member of the [beta]-lacam family of drugs, was developed. Since then, tens of thousands of derivatives of penicillin have been developed, but only seventeen antibiotics of this family are currently marketed in the United States. Penicillin and its derivatives work by preventing certain bacteria from building strong cell walls that keep their shape and integrity. Without well-integrated cell walls, "bacterial trying to grow in the presence of penicillin puff up and die."1

Almost all bacterial diseases have evolved some level of resistance. The "increased use of antimicrobial drugs encourages the spread of resistance and increases the prevalence of drug-resistant strains."2 In fact, most virulent strains, like many sexually transmitted diseases, require at least double the dosage that was used a decade ago. Vancomycin, commonly referred to as the "last resort drug," is being used by hospitals in ever-increasing amounts.

Bacterial resistance is the result of evolutionary responses. One cause of resistance is through mutation. In some instances, proteins used to build the cell are altered to bind penicillin poorly or not at all. A second type of resistance occurs when the bacteria preemptively breaks down penicillin into harmless by-products before they have the chance to bind with the cell wall. A greater cause for concern is the fact that "bacteria may reproduce with different bacterial species passing on resistance" to bacteria that did not previously possess the ability to resist any drugs.3

Humans are the predominant cause for drug resistance. The following are some examples of how human intervention has res...

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...3. Palumbi. Pg. 81.

4. "Meanwhile, Back at the Farm" in Infectious Disease Alert. Nov. 1, 2001. vol. 21 i. 3 Pg. 17.

5. Palumbi. Pg. 89.

6. Palumbi. Reproduced from Table 4.1 on Pg. 75.

7. Skolnic, Andrew. "New Insight Into How Bacteria Develop Antibiotic Resistance" in The Journal of the American Medical Association. Jan. 2, 1991. vol. 265 n. 1. Pg. 14.

8. For further reading consult: Skurkovich, Simon. "Facing the Coming Plague" in World and I. June 1998. vol. 13 n. 6. Pg. 150.


1. This presentation was intended to be associated with the following article:

Eckert, Eric. "Diseased Soieties" in World and I. Oct. 1998. vol. 13 n. 10. Pg. 166.

2. Lappe, Marc. Breakout: The Evolving Threat of Drug-Resistant Disease. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1995.

3. "How Bacteria Build Resistance to Antibiotics" presented by USA Today
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