Super Bugs And How They May Threaten the Human Race


bug.jpgThe New Yorker ran an excellent piece on the rise of super bacteria and their resistance to antibioticsJerome Groopman argues that hospitals are breeding grounds for “super bugs” and that Doctors have been too quick to prescribe antibiotics (which only help bacteria assimilate and fight off treatments). 

Here’s a brilliant description of how a particular bacteria adapts to antibiotics:

In April, I visited Dr. Stuart Levy, at Tufts University School of Medicine. Levy is a researcher-physician who has made key discoveries about how bacteria become resistant to antibiotics. In addition to the natural cell envelope of Klebsiella, Levy outlined three primary changes in bacteria that make them resistant to antibiotics. Each change involves either a mutation in the bacterium’s own DNA or the importation of mutated DNA from another. (Bacteria can exchange DNA in the form of plasmids, molecules that are shared by the microbes and allow them to survive inhibitory antibiotics.) First, the bacteria may acquire an enzyme that can either act like a pair of scissors, cutting the drug into an inactive form, or modify the drug’s chemical structure, so that it is rendered impotent. Thirty years ago, Levy discovered a second change: pumps inside the bacteria that could spit out the antibiotic once it had passed through the cell wall. His first reports were met with profound skepticism, but now, Levy told me, “most people would say that efflux is the most common form of bacterial resistance to antibiotics.” The third change involves mutations that alter the inner contents of the microbe, so that the antibiotic can no longer inactivate its target.



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