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Antibiotic Resistance

Resistance And Public Health

The effects of antibiotic resistance are reflected in the agriculture, food, medical, and pharmaceutical industries. Livestock are fed about half of the antibiotics manufactured in the United States as a preventative measure, rather than in the treatment of specific diseases. Such usage has resulted in hamburger meat that contains drug-resistant and difficult-to-treat Salmonella Newport, which has led to seventeen cases of gastroenteritis including one death. Some MDR-tuberculoid strains arise because patients are reluctant to follow the six-months or more of treatment needed to effectively cure tuberculosis. If the drug regimen is not followed, less sensitive bacteria have the chance to multiply and gradually emerge into resistant strains. In other cases the "shotgun" method of indiscriminately prescribing/taking several antibiotics runs the risk of creating "super MDR-germs." Moreover, millions of antibiotic prescriptions are written by physicians each year for viral infections, against which antibiotics are useless. The patient insists on a prescription, and many doctors willingly go along with the request.

Because global travel is common, the potential of creating pandemics is looming. In many Third World countries, diluted antibiotics are sold on the black market. The dosage taken is often too low to be effective, or the patient takes the drug for a very short time. All these behaviors contribute to the development of resistant strains of infectious organisms. If humans are to gain the upper hand against MDR bacteria, it is the responsibility of these industries and the public to educate themselves and to engage in careful practices and therapy.

Paul K. Small


Garrett, Laurie. The Coming Plague. New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1996.

Ingraham, John, and Caroline Ingraham. Introduction to Microbiology, 2nd ed. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole, 2000.

Nester, Eugene W., et al. Microbiology: A Human Perspective, 3rd ed. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2001.

Schaechter, Moselio, et al. Mechanisms of Microbial Disease, 3rd ed. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 1998.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaGenetics in Medicine - Part 1Antibiotic Resistance - Mechanisms Of Resistance, Resistance And Public Health