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In the Real World

Health and Prokaryotes

Antibiotics

Evolution of antibiotic resistance is a deeply troubling phenomenon. As antibiotics are increasingly overused, antibiotic resistance is growing. For a chart showing how quickly antibiotic resistant strains have emerged following development of any given treatment, please follow this link.

Antibiotic resistance is alarming, but there are a number of things that we can do to deal with this.

Antibiotics Should Be Finished to Completion

Finishing antibiotic regimes is an important, but simple, thing to do. When you are prescribed antibiotics, be sure to finish the prescription. Exposing the bacteria in your body to low levels of antibiotics (as occurs if the regime is not finished), kills off the weaker bacteria and allow for hardier bacteria to proliferate. Ultimately this leads to proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Don’t Use Antibiotics for Viral Infections

Second of all, it’s important to know that antibiotics are not effective against most colds. Colds and flus are typically viral diseases, and antibiotics don’t have any effect on viruses. Excessive use of antibiotics, again, can lead to development of antibiotic resistance and spread of antibiotic bacteria.

Reduce the Use of Antibiotics in Livestock

A lot of antibiotic resistant bacteria follow from the practice of giving antibiotics to the animals that are grown for food, whether or not those animals are sick. You don’t need to be a pig farmer to implement this recommendation; you can choose food grown without using antibiotics.

Find New Antibiotics

Develop new antibiotics. People are looking for altogether new antibiotics and derivatives of existing ones. One promising way to think of new ways to modify existing antibiotics is to study how bacteria become resistant to existing antibiotics. In the "Themes in Biology: Evolution" section above we talked about how resistance to the antibiotic streptomycin comes from mutation of one amino acid residue in a ribosomal protein. Now that we know this information, we can study precisely how that antibiotic interacts with that protein and maybe design an antibiotic that would still work on the mutant protein as well as the normal ("wild type") one.

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