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Essay/Term paper: Antibiotic resistance in bacteria

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Chemistry

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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, it treated one of the biggest killers during wartime - 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
Antibiotic resistance can be the result of different things. One cause
of resistance could be drug abuse. There are people who believe that when they
get sick, antibiotics are the answer. The more times you use a drug, the more
it will decrease the effect it has on you. That is because the bacteria has
found a way to avoid the effects of that antibiotic. Another cause of
resistance is the improper use of drugs. When patients feel that the symptoms
of their disease have improved, they often stop taking the drug. Just because
the symptoms have disappeared it does not mean the disease has gone away.
Prescribed drugs should be taken until all the medicine is gone so the disease
is completely finished. If it is not, then this will just give the bacteria
some time to find a way to avoid the effects of the drug.
One antibiotic that will always have a long lasting effect in history 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, which ended up to be a fungus growth. He then discovered that inside
this mold was a substance that killed bacteria. It was the antibiotic,
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 bacteria dies.
After four years, when drug companies started to mass produce penicillin,
in 1943, the first signs of penicillin-resistant bacteria started to show up.
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
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 became so prosperous, 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, approaches are being made to control infections such as hand
washing by health care people, and identifying drug resistant infections quickly
to keep them away from others. The World Health Organization has began a global
computer program that reports any outbreaks of drug-resistant bacterial
In the early 1900's, the discovery of penicillin began the antibiotic
era. People thought they have finally won the battle with bacteria. But now
since antibiotic resistance is increasing rapidly, new strategies must be
developed to destroy these microbes. To many scientists the antibiotic era is


Bylinsky, Gene. Sept. 5,1995. The new fight against killer microbes.
Fortune. p. 74-76.

Dixon, Bernard. March 17,1995. Return of the killer bugs.
New Statesman & Society. p. 29-32.

Levy, Stuart B. Jan. 15,1995. Dawn of the post-antibiotic era?
Patient Care. p. 84-86.

Lewis, Ricki. Sept. 1995. The rise of antibiotic-resistant infections.
FDA Consumer. p. 11-15.

Miller, Julie Ann. June 1995. Preparing for the postantibiotic era.
BioScience. p. 384-392.

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