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Antibiotic Resistance- Challenging the Evolution

Antibiotic resistance is listed as one of the major six reasons that could result in the end of mankind on planet earth by BBC’s Knowledge magazine.

Do you need a proof for evolution? Antibiotic resistance is the evidence. The microbes that were once suppressed by our antibiotics have become much stronger to defy the impact of our drugs. 

To those who believe in Young earth creationism, this clearly hints a proof for the process of evolution.  If evolution is what the metaphysical truth is, by fighting against the antibiotic resistance, are we waging a war against the holy process that made life possible on earth? 

These questions may never find their answers. But, the fact is antibiotic resistance is real and is getting worse.  When we move fast towards the future, the past may return to haunt us. This is apt for the antibiotics we use to prevent any diseases caused by microbes. 

The immunity power developed in the microbes over a period of time against the antibiotic drugs is killing 700,000 people in a year worldwide.  This number could go up to 10 million by 2050, if we fail to act with the right measures. 

Antibiotics were discovered to protect lives from bacterial, fungal and other microbial infections, some of them potentially fatal.  When such medicines lose its power to fight against the foreign microbes, it could have a devastating effect on the lives on earth. 

Ironically, one of the reasons many antibiotics are losing its vigor is due to its overuse. The microbial organisms have developed genes that resist the effect of such drugs on them.

An ignored warning

As men started using antibiotics way more than actually required, the microbes learnt themselves how to survive these drugs that could render them ineffective or potentially kill them when used in correct measures. 

Alexander Fleming who invented penicillin had warned us about the ability of bacterial organisms to develop immunity against our drugs in 1945. We were heedless. The use of antibiotics rose by 50% between 2000 and 2014.

  The result is, malaria, cholera and the many other deadly diseases caused by bacterium that were fatal once could become deadly again with no drugs to fight against. 

Or else, you need some of the costliest medications to fight a simple sore throat infection that is now cured by a drug at a very nominal price.  Staphylococcus aureus and Neisseria gonorrhoeae (that causes gonorrhoea ) have become completely resistant to benzylpenicillin, which was used to cure them once. 

Some more examples are Mycobacterium tuberculosis that is resistant to multiple drugs, and Enterococcus resistant to vancomycin.  60% of the samples collected from patients in 2014 suggest that the E coli, a common bacterium found in the gut has become resistant to penicillin.

E. coli has also become resistant to a drug that was used since 1950s, colistin, which is also one of the last line of ammunition in the antibiotic arsenal.

Antibiotics and the meat industry

Yet another reason for this antibiotic resistance other than its overuse is the meat industry.  Most of the diseases originate from animals. When anti-microbes are used in excess to keep these livestocks such as poultry, goat, pigs, fishes etc. healthy and immune to diseases, the microbes present in them develop resistance to those antibiotics and become superbugs. 

When these superbugs pass on to human beings from these animals, the disease caused by them may become incurable, until we discover a new line of drugs to treat them.

This could lead to a global crisis in which diseases that were treated at ease become incurable.  Some numbers are passing us distress signals. In the US, animals consume more than 70% of the antimicrobials. Globally, this consumption is bound to increase by two-thirds before 2030. 

A few governments have taken measures to check this uncontrolled use of antimicrobials in animal husbandry. Since 2006, farmers in the EU are barred from using antibiotics on animals only to boost their growth, without any diseases. 

There are a few good news coming in from researchers. The antibiotic Vancomycin has been reworked to strengthen its fight against microbes.

The antibiotic resistance process

Some of the microbes make use of their innate ability to evade the effects of antibiotics or even kill them. 

Some of them acquire the ability from other bacterial species through the process of transformation and also through plasmid, and transpoon, which are some pieces of DNA that transfers the resistant gene. 

Once these genes are received, they will be inherited further and the species becomes superbugs resisting drugs.  Some of the techniques used by bacteria to stay away from the antimicrobials are:  The bacteria alters the permeability of its own membrane to disallow the diffusion of drugs into its structure. 

Certain bacteria changes the form of their structure to remain unrecognized.  Some kinds of bacteria goes a step further and kills penicillin by producing an enzyme called beta-lactamases. 

There are a lot of measures taken against antibiotic resistance but there is a long way to go. Responsible use of antimicrobials in humans and animals will help a lot in this fight.

By our efforts to put an end to antibiotic resistance, we are challenging the process of evolution. Lets wait and see how we evolve. 

Image Source: Medical News Today

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