The Biological Cost of Antibiotic Resistance

Andersson, Dan I., and Bruce R. Levin. “The Biological Cost of Antibiotic Resistance.” Current Opinion in Microbiology 2.5 (1999): 489-93. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.

This article from the Current Opinion in Microbiology journal addresses the rising concerns of antibiotic resistant bacteria and the dangers that they pose to all mankind. The authors, Dan Andersson and Bruce Levin, argue that the use of antibiotics has lead to an explosive rate of evolution for antibiotic resistant bacteria everywhere. Bacteria that used to be readily treatable by rounds of antibiotics have now developed resistances from that antibiotic and other antibiotics as well. Whether or not this event can be reversed or not is up in the air, for natural selection of bacteria is a process that continues on its own. An organism’s ability to survive and reproduce, or its “fitness”, is important to think about when dealing with strains of antibiotic resistant material. In this case, fitness can be measured by comparing the rates that antibiotic resistant and sensitive bacteria reproduce and die in both the human body and the environment. When mutations in genes occur in organisms, it has been known to initially hurt their ability to reproduce and incur a “biological” cost. However, when various bacteria gained resistance mutations, very little cost was imposed. Usually, evolution occurs so quickly for bacteria than any biological cost incurred is compensated for. These results illustrate just how dangerous it is to advance the evolution of resistant bacteria through overuse of antibiotics.

The authors of this journal present a very strong argument about how our overuse of antibiotics has promoted faster evolution of resistant bacteria both within humans and are environment. Because this article was taken from a scientific journal, it is incredibly well researched and many statements can be backed up by the sources at the end of the article. The authors establish their credibility through their positions at departments of biology and bacteriology and their knowledge shows that they are experts in their respective fields. Some ethical issues can arise from their use of animals when studying the evolution of bacterial diseases though. Also, this article is unlikely to have a very large audience. Much of this writing uses jargon that would be confusing to those who are unfamiliar with biology. This alone is enough to slightly weaken their overall argument, which is hard to decipher. Overall, the authors do a good job of breaking down the issue of antibiotic resistant bacteria and the dangers that will surface should nothing change.

This source and its focus on reproduction and evolution can be related to Octavia Butler’s novel, Dawn. Dawn addresses the effects that advanced evolution can have on organisms. Comparisons can be drawn between the humans in Dawn and the bacteria evolving the scope of our current antibiotics. Both are far more capable as “evolved” organisms rather than the normal versions of themselves. We can only hope that bacteria doesn’t evolve beyond modern medicine.

This article takes a very technical standpoint on the issue of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. While my other two articles delve into the possible consequences of losing antibiotics and how it will affect us, this article describes the processes behind bacterial evolution that allows them to outpace antibiotics. Even though it is written for an audience familiar with microbiology, it is still interesting to see the process behind this issue.

Journal (May need to log in via institution): Link

Connor Hill


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