Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance is a type of drug resistance where a microorganism is able to survive exposure to an antibiotic. While a spontaneous or induced genetic mutation in bacteria may confer resistance to antimicrobial drugs, genes that confer resistance can be transferred between bacteria in a horizontal fashion by conjugation, transduction, or transformation. Thus, a gene for antibiotic resistance that evolves via natural selection may be shared. Evolutionary stress such as exposure to antibiotics then selects for the antibiotic resistant trait. Many antibiotic resistance genes reside on plasmids, facilitating their transfer. If a bacterium carries several resistance genes, it is called multidrug resistant (MDR) or, informally, a superbug or super bacterium. Genes for resistance to antibiotics, like the antibiotics themselves, are ancient. However, the increasing prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections seen in clinical practice stems from antibiotic use both within human medicine and veterinary medicine. Any use of antibiotics can increase selective pressure in a population of bacteria to allow the resistant bacteria to thrive and the susceptible bacteria to die off. As resistance towards antibiotics becomes more common, a greater need for alternative treatments arises. However, despite a push for new antibiotic therapies there has been a continued decline in the number of newly approved drugs. Antibiotic resistance therefore poses a significant problem.

Source: Wikipedia, July 15, 2012: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antibiotic_resistance

More information can be found on the website of the WHO