Antibiotics, Farming and Superbugs

Posted on May 2, 2010  Comments (1)

Antibiotics and farming – how superbugs happen

Provocative new research from Boston University’s medical school and department of biomedical engineering now suggests, though, that multi-drug resistance can be acquired in one pass, through a different mutational process triggered by sublethal doses of antibiotics – the same sort of doses that are given to animals on farms.

In earlier work, the authors found that antibiotics attack bacteria not only in the ways they are designed to (the beta-lactams such as methicillin, for instance, interfere with staph’s ability to make new cell walls as the bug reproduces, causing the daughter cells to burst and die), but also in an unexpected way. They stimulate the production of free radicals, oxygen molecules with an extra electron, that bind to and damage the bacteria’s DNA.

That research used lethal doses of antibiotics, and ascertained that the free-radical production killed the bacteria. In the new research, the team uses sublethal doses, and here’s what they find: The same free-radical production doesn’t kill the bacteria, but it acts as a dramatic stimulus to mutation, triggering production of a wide variety of mutations

Related: A radical source of antibiotic resistance…Overuse of AntibioticsBacteria Race Ahead of DrugsRaised Without Antibiotics

One Response to “Antibiotics, Farming and Superbugs”

  1. Melba Denosta
    May 2nd, 2010 @ 1:43 pm

    Thanks to the information generated by the new research conducted by Boston University’s Medical School and Department of Biomedical Engineering! Are the findings presented may also be applicable on the effects of lethal and sub lethal doses of antibiotics to human-disease causing bacteria? I am actually one of those who don’t usually take in antibiotics(if possible) because my father would usually tell me that prolong in take of such drugs could weaken one’s immune system. I’m not quite sure whether there are medical researches that support this. Well anyway, based on the article presented, it is clearly implied that lethal doses of antibiotics kill the disease-causing bacteria on farm animals but sub lethal doses won’t kill them, instead, it would create a variety of mutations. This is quite alarming and should be taken into consideration.

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