Preventing Bacteria from Creating Resistance to Drugs
In 1943, the antibiotic era began when penicillin, a member of the [beta]-lacam family of drugs, was developed. Since then, tens of thousands of derivatives of penicillin have been developed, but only seventeen antibiotics of this family are currently marketed in the United States. Penicillin and its derivatives work by preventing certain bacteria from building strong cell walls that keep their shape and integrity. Without well-integrated cell walls, "bacterial trying to grow in the presence of penicillin puff up and die."1
Almost all bacterial diseases have evolved some level of resistance. The "increased use of antimicrobial drugs encourages the spread of resistance and increases the prevalence of drug-resistant strains."2 In fact, most virulent strains, like many sexually transmitted diseases, require at least double the dosage that was used a decade ago. Vancomycin, commonly referred to as the "last resort drug," is being used by hospitals in ever-increasing amounts.
Bacterial resistance is the result of evolutionary responses. One cause of resistance is through mutation. In some instances, proteins used to build the cell are altered to bind penicillin poorly or not at all. A second type of resistance occurs when the bacteria preemptively breaks down penicillin into harmless by-products before they have the chance to bind with the cell wall. A greater cause for concern is the fact that "bacteria may reproduce with different bacterial species passing on resistance" to bacteria that did not previously possess the ability to resist any drugs.3
Humans are the predominant cause for drug resistance. The following are some examples of how human intervention has resulted in microbial resistance.
1. The overuse of antibiotics. Individuals within the medical profession typically perpetrate this. In third world countries, many people inappropriately use antibiotics for viral infections, likes influenza. Antibiotics can only treat bacterial infections. In nations like the United States, doctors in the past have over-prescribed medication, using antibiotics when alternatives where available. This occurs less frequently now, than it did in the past. However, doctors continue to prescribe stronger types of antibiotics then are actually required to fight the illness. Using strong types of antibiotics creates more evolutionary pressure on bacteria to create resistance. Greater resistance to stronger types of drugs reduces their effectiveness and the doctor's ability to combat disease.
2. Patients are also responsible for encouraging drug resistance when they discontinue treatment before completing their required regimen. Patients often do this because they start to feel better, they want to avoid additional costs, they find it inconvenient to take the medication, or they do not like the side effects. These side effects include allergic reactions, vomiting, or diarrhea for up to 10...