Bacteria Race Ahead of Drugs

Posted on January 21, 2008  Comments (0)

Bacteria race ahead of drugs

Dr. Jeff Brooks has been director of the UCSF lab for 29 years, and has watched with a mixture of fascination and dread how bacteria once tamed by antibiotics evolve rapidly into forms that practically no drug can treat.

“We are on the verge of losing control of the situation, particularly in the hospitals,” said Dr. Chip Chambers, chief of infectious disease at San Francisco General Hospital. The reasons for increasing drug resistance are well known:
– Overuse of antibiotics, which speeds the natural evolution of bacteria, promoting new mutant strains resistant to those drugs.
– Careless prescribing of antibiotics that aren’t effective for the malady in question, such as a viral infection.
– Patient demand for antibiotics when they aren’t needed.
– Heavy use of antibiotics in poultry and livestock feed, which can breed resistance to similar drugs for people.

Terry Hazen, senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and director of its ecology program, is not at all surprised by the tenacity of our bacterial foes. “We are talking about 3.5 billion years of evolution,” he said. “They are the dominant life on Earth.”

Bacteria have invaded virtually every ecological niche on the planet. Human explorers of extreme environments such as deep wells and mines are still finding new bacterial species. “As you go deeper into the subsurface, thousands and thousands of feet, you find bacteria that have been isolated for millions of years – and you find multiple antibiotic resistance,” Hazen said.

In his view, when bacteria develop resistance to modern antibiotics, they are merely rolling out old tricks they mastered eons ago in their struggle to live in harsh environments in competition with similarly resilient species.

We have written often about the misuse of anti-biotics. This is a serious problem. And it is sad to see yet another example of well know scientific facts being ignored and by so doing threatening the healthy lives of others. i just finished a great book on bacteria and human health – Good Germs, Bad Germs.

Related: articles on the overuse of antibioticsMisuse of antibioticsTuberculosis RiskEvolution is Fundamental to ScienceBlocking Bacteria From Passing Genes to Other BacteriaRaised Without AntibioticsHandwashing by Medical Care Workers

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