Antibiotic resistance presents a growing threat that will continue to be highlighted in the news as it affects more and more people. The misuse of antibiotics for a range of health problems has resulted in the creation of superbugs, which currently have no treatment.
Research papers could examine how we got to this point and what researchers are doing to solve the problem.
Antibiotic resistance in the news
In recent years, scientists and doctors have been more urgently sounding the alarm about the potential creation of superbugs that we wouldn’t be able to treat. The Atlantic’s Sarah Zhang wrote, “A Woman Was Killed by a Superbug Resistant to All 26 American Antibiotics” on January 13, 2017, with the most current evidence that this warning has come true.
The 70-year-old woman in Zhang’s story broke her leg in India and this later led to an infection in her hip that was untreatable by the 26 available antibiotics in the U.S. Zhang wrote, “Scientists later tested the bacteria that killed her, and found it was somewhat susceptible to fosfomycin, but that antibiotic is not approved in the U.S. to treat her type of infection.” A research paper could look at how misuse of antibiotics has allowed these superbugs to emerge in the first place.
Future health problems
Not sure why antibiotic resistance is such a concern? Well not only has our misuse of antibiotics resulted in the creation of superbugs, which we now have no way of treating, but there are other potential health problems that may have arisen as well. Laurie Garrett posted “Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria and the World’s Peril” on September 19, 2016, for Scientific American, with an explanation.
Antibiotics were supposed to be used to kill only the bacteria that cause diseases such as pneumonia and ear infections. However, they have often been prescribed for less serious conditions or illness they really can’t treat. Antibiotics are also used in the livestock we eat—not to treat them for illness, but to allow them to grow larger and look bigger. Garrett wrote, “Today the United States, alone, uses 25 million pounds of antibiotic products on livestock every year.” A research paper could look at how our use of antibiotics in animals is affecting humans, including the impact on the Earth’s microbiome, which represents almost a third of all biological material and life forms.
The creation of superbugs
To have any chance of learning how to stop superbugs from causing future health problems, researchers are spending time studying how bacteria can adapt creating antibiotic resistance. Researchers have typically studied microbial evolution in flasks, but a group recently recognized that that environment isn’t representative to that bacteria experience in the real world. “Scientists Watch Superbugs Evolve: Growth Patterns Reveal E. Coli’s Path to Drug Resistance” by Laurel Hamers for the October 15, 2016, edition of Science News shared more.
The researchers Hamers highlighted had “modeled those spatial dynamics using a giant rectangular dish more than a meter long instead of a standard palm-sized dish. That let the researchers create a gradient of antibiotics on the plate.” The result was that the bacteria that survived were able to move forward on the dish into the higher grade of antibiotics and develop even greater antibiotic resistance. The research also showed how other antibiotics were able to form superbugs at lower levels of antibiotics as well. A research paper could examine other ways doctors and scientists are trying to combat the growth of superbugs or how wide ranging the problem of the misuse of antibiotics is, including how it is impacting the conflict in Syria.
Are you concerned about the health problems to come from antibiotic resistance? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.