Doctors enlisted to turn the tide on antibiotic resistance | Science News

SUPPORT SCIENCE NEWS

Science News is a nonprofit.

Help us keep you informed.


Feature

Doctors enlisted to turn the tide on antibiotic resistance

Behavior change — among prescribers and patients — can combat resistant microbes

By
1:24pm, September 19, 2014
The bacterium Clostridium difficile

LOW-TECH BACTERIA BATTLE  Clostridium difficile (shown) is common in hospitals and is hard to treat.

It is not difficult to make microbes resistant to penicillin in the laboratory by exposing them to concentrations not sufficient to kill them…. 

—Alexander Fleming, discoverer of penicillin, in his 1945 Nobel Prize lecture

Fleming’s remarks were spot-on. Since the heady days of penicillin’s discovery, an overuse of antibiotics has spawned bacterial resistance to the drugs and threatened to erase decades of success. Every prescription that misses the mark or throws excess drugs at a bacterium gives bystander bacteria a good look at those antibiotics and a head start in resisting their effects, as Fleming noted.

Some microbes are changing faster than antimicrobials can kill them. As a result, it’s once again possible to get a bacterial or fungal infection for which there is no sure cure.

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now. Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More Body & Brain articles

From the Nature Index Paid Content