What is Antibiotic Resistance?

A Salmonella bacterium. Some strains of Salmonella can develop antibiotic resistance.
Cattle have routinely been fed antibiotics for years.
Over prescribed antibiotics can cause a resistance.
Prescribed antibiotics may not cure an infection with those who are experiencing antibiotic resistance.
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  • Written By: L. S. Wynn
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 12 December 2014
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Antibiotic resistance is the ability of a microorganism to withstand the effects of an antibiotic. This resistance develops through gene action or plasmid exchange between bacteria of the same species. If a bacterium carries several resistant genes, it is called multiresistant or, as it is often described, a 'superbug'.

Essentially, antibiotic resistance develops as a result of natural selection. The antibiotic action is an environmental pressure, and those bacteria with mutation allowing them to survive will live on to reproduce. They will then pass this trait to their offspring, which will be a fully resistant generation.

Several studies have demonstrated that patterns of antibiotic usage can have a dramatic affect on the prevalence of resistant organisms. Other factors contributing to resistance include incorrect diagnosis, unnecessary prescriptions, improper use of antibiotics by patients, and the use of antibiotics as livestock food additives for growth promotion.

Staphylococcus aureus (Staph aureus) is one of the major resistant pathogens. It is found on the mucous membranes and the skin of around a third of the population it is extremely adaptable to antibiotic pressure. It was the first bacterium found to be resistant to penicillin; it was discoverd just 4 years after penicillin began to be mass-produced.


Penicillin-resistant pneumonia (or pneumococcus, caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae) was first detected in 1967 as was penicillin-resistant gonorrhea. Other strains with some levels of antibiotic resistance include Salmonella, Campylobacteria, and Streptococci.

Unlike antibiotics, vaccines do not contribute to resistance. Vaccines work by enhancing the body's natural defenses, whereas antibiotics operate in lieu of the body's normal defenses.


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Post 6

@anon195520: Diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease just seem to go hand in hand, especially if the person isn't controlling one of these as well as he or she ought to. If your dad wasn't controlling his diabetes or high blood pressure very well, then a heart attack was probably bound to happen. The tumor on his prostate, in all likelihood, didn't have anything to do with his heart attack. It was probably the combination of the high blood pressure and diabetes.

You certainly have my condolences and sympathy. I am very sorry about what happened to your dad.

Post 5

My dad died in June from cardiac arrest. He was diagnosed with high blood pressure in 1999, and diabetes in 2002, Now for the last year he was dying, and he was diagonised with prostate cancer and diabetes Type 1. The tumor on his prostate was large: 1.5. The greason result was 7. What was this? What might have triggered his death?

Post 4

I try to buy food that was produced without the use of antibiotics, and I guess antibiotic resistance is a good reason to keep doing it.

Antibiotics are a wonderful thing. They have helped us so much. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. And it sounds like antibiotics are reaching that point. I think they should only be used when necessary.

Post 3

It's kind of scary to think of a world filled with antibiotic resistant bacteria. I guess we just have to hope that there are people out there who are able to come up with new antibiotics as fast as the old ones stop working.

I hate to think about what the world would be like without antibiotics. Right now there is a bug going around my family, from one person to the next with amazing speed. I was just saying to my husband that we are so lucky that we don't live in the past, when fatal diseases did that and whole families got wiped out.

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