Antibiotics - Essay Example

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The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus is commonly found on human skin and in the nasal passages where it can exist for years without causing any problems at all. If, however, the bacterium reaches internal areas through a breach, or if the immune system is for any reason impaired,…
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Antibiotic resistance: the case of MRSA. The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus is commonly found on human skin and in the nasal passages where it can exist for years without causing any problems at all. If, however, the bacterium reaches internal areas through a breach, or if the immune system is for any reason impaired, the bacterium can cause very serious infections to the deeper tissues, and to the heart, which can be fatal if not treated.
In 1941, the antibiotic agent Penicillin G was found to be effective against almost all strains of Staphylococcus aureus but by 1944 the bacterium had begun to develop resistance to the penicillin, and nowadays more than 95% of the strains are resistant to penicillin (Neu, 1992, 1064). In response to the bacterium’s ability to mutate, scientists developed large numbers of different antibiotics, including semisynthetic variants of penicillin such as methicillin, in an attempt to keep ahead of the bacterium’s ability to develop resistance. In the 1950s some cases emerged in which the bacterium was resistant to even this antibiotic, giving rise to the name “Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus” or MRSA.
One recent study found that a small number of Staphylococcus aureus genotypes have evolved out of epidemic strains of MRSA, and this explains why MRSA is now endemic in many hospitals and care homes (Enright et al., 2002). The consequence for human health is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to counter this bacterial infection in precisely these contexts. The pharmaceutical industry has very few effective antibiotics left which can deal with MRSA and the proposed strategy to deal with its advance is to improve hospital and care home cleanliness and to keep researching new antibiotic formulae. This will undoubtedly be successful in the short term, but it is difficult to know how long scientists can keep this up, given the ability of the bacterium to evolve resistance.
Enright, M.C., Robinson, D.A., Randle, G., Feil, E.J., Grundmann, H. and Spratt, B.G. (2002) The evolutionary history of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) PNAS 99 (11), 7687-7692.
Neu, H.C. (1992) The Crisis in Antibiotic Resistance. Science 257, 1064-1073. Read More
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