One Reason Bacteria Gain Tolerance So Quickly

Posted on February 19, 2008  Comments (1)

I recently read Good Gems, Bad Germs as part of my effort to learn more about bacteria, viruses, how are bodies work, cells, microbiology etc.. It is a great book, I highly recommend it. Page 111:

In 1951 the husband-wife team of Joshua and Esther Lederberg, microbiologists at the University of Wisconsin, demonstrated that their elegantly simple proof that preexisting mutations, not gradual tolerance, accounted for the many instances of new drug resistance… This meant that every new antibiotic became a powerful new force for bacterial evolution, winnowing away every bacterium but the otherwise unremarkable one that could survive its effects. With its competition gone, that lucky mutant could populate, giving rise to a newly resistant colony overnight.

Since bacteria can grow remarkably quickly, eliminating all but a small number just means that the new population boom will come from those few, resistant, ancestors. But that is not the only reason bacteria are so challenging to fight. They have been around billions or years and have survived because they can adapt well. Bacteria, in fact, can get their genes from distantly related bacteria. So if one bacteria gains immunity another bacteria can get that immunity by getting genes from that other bacteria (seems like science fiction but it is actually science fact).

Related: Stratification and Systemic ThinkingBlocking Bacteria From Passing Genes to Other BacteriaMisuse of AntibioticsUnderstanding the Evolution of Human Beings by CountryHacking Your Body’s BacteriaHow Bacteria Nearly Destroyed All Life

One Response to “One Reason Bacteria Gain Tolerance So Quickly”

  1. quan
    February 20th, 2008 @ 4:24 am

    nice read. i find this topic quite fascinating!

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