Resistance of microbes to antibiotics: Great example of evolution happening all around us, constantly

The lay editorial [below] … about “superbugs developing resistance to one newly developed antibiotic after another” … is a good example of gene-environment interactions.

Just as cancer cells respond to (environmental) pressures and become resistant to chemotherapeutic drugs in order to survive, clinical bacterial infections are doing the same in their responses to antibiotic therapy. Both instances are examples of normal evolutionary processes.

Drug resistance is causing an ever-increasing number of deaths. More than 2 million people become infected with resistant bacteria every year in the U.S. alone, and at least 23,000 of them die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some would have died even if antibiotics worked, but resistant infections generally lead to disease that is longer, more serious, and more often fatal. By 2050, the number of estimated deaths worldwide could be 10 million a year, according to a review commissioned by the U.K. government that will soon be published.

The figure on page 759 [attached] shows a dozen well-known antibiotics, the year each was discovered, year when it was introduced clinically, and year when confirmed resistance was noted.  This figure is an excellent illustration of “evolution in action“, which is happening all around us every day.

Science  13 May 2o16; 352: 758 – 761

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