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Antibiotic resistance is here to stay, but that doesn't mean we can't do anything to stop it.
A headline that always catches my attention is that antibiotic resistance is on the rise. Underlying these headlines is that the disease-causing bacteria that make us sick are becoming less responsive to treatment by our most common antibiotics. If you read past the headline, you will see that the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that by the year 2050, there will be 10 million deaths annually from antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB). This would place ARB ahead of cancer as a leading cause of death worldwide. Those headlines assume that the world cannot do anything to intervene.
Scientist - Diseases - Row - Seat - ARB
I am a physician scientist trained in infectious diseases who has had a front row seat as ARB has been on the rise. I am also a member of a group of researchers who are developing bacteriophages—viruses that kill bacteria—as alternatives to antibiotics as an additional means to limit ARB in the U.S. and worldwide.
To understand why ARB is approaching crisis levels, it is important to understand the limitations of the antibiotics and what trends are contributing to it.
People - Antibiotics - Infections - Antibiotics - Millions
People have used antibiotics to treat infections since the early 1940s, but naturally produced antibiotics are millions of years old. These medicines are derived from natural products that bacteria and fungi use to combat other bacteria. They use these products to eliminate their competition.
Most of the antibiotics produced by industry have one thing in common: they work the same way. They block the bacteria's ability to make proteins, DNA, RNA or even its cell wall, the consequences of which are deadly to the bacteria. Thus most new antibiotics are not based on new ways to kill bacteria; they're simply incremental improvements.
Consequence - Bacterium - Immunity
The consequence is that when a bacterium develops immunity to one...
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