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Unfortunately many of the bacteria which cause these infections are becoming resistant to existing antibiotics. The more we use antibiotics, the more resistant bacteria become. With antibiotic resistance on the rise, increasing numbers of people die every year of infections caused by bacteria that have become resistant to the antibiotics previously used to treat them. It is estimated that, by , the global cumulative cost of antibiotic resistance will reach trillion US Dollars USD.

Antibiotics and antibiotic resistance | Microbiology Society

In the s and s new drugs were being isolated all the time. However, the rate of drug discovery has slowed markedly. This lack of effective new antibiotics means that drugs previously set aside as 'reserve' antibiotics, meant to be used only when no other treatment is available, are being used more and more regularly - and resistance is developing to them, too.

Some of these reserve antibiotics are also more toxic or have more severe side effects than more standard antibiotic treatments.

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Antibiotics Unearthed will enable the public and school, university and college students to join the hunt for new antibiotics in soil. They will take soil samples and be involved in the analysis of them to see if they contain antibiotic producing bacteria.

Soil is an abundant habitat for microbes: Research on bacteria indicates that one gram of soil contains tens of thousands of species.

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Soil also represents a well-validated habitat for identifying a wide range of micro-organisms that produce bioactive metabolites secondary metabolites including antibiotics. Antibiotics traveling through biofilm. When bacterial cells replicate, there is a small chance the new bacterial cell will not be exactly the same as the original bacterial cell.

We call these errors in the copied cell a mutation. In one bacterial cell, the cell wall could be slightly different, in another an enzyme works poorly, and so on. Mutations are key to the idea of evolution, and all of the diversity you can see in nature came from a series of many mutations over hundreds of thousands of years.

In animals, it can take centuries or millennia for a species to adopt a mutation which helps it survive and sometimes these mutations create entirely new species. It takes this long in animals because it takes years for most animals to grow up and reproduce. Bacteria on the other hand can multiply within hours, allowing for more mutations to occur over a shorter period of time.

There are four common mutations bacteria undergo to become resistant to antibiotics:.

Enzymes in the bacteria eat and deactivate antibiotics. Antibiotics are ejected from the bacteria. The bacterial wall prevents antibiotics from entering. The bacteria adopts a new way of processing energy as some antibiotics interfere with the energy process.

Bacterial mutations to fight antibiotics. These little mutant bacteria may thrive where the non-mutant bacteria die, and new antibiotics or more of the same antibiotic, if the mutants are only slightly resistant must be used to kill them. Humans continue to search for new antibiotics to help the immune system, and bacteria continue to have mutant members in their colonies that can potentially resist antibiotics!

What are bacteria and viruses?

A curious habit of bacteria is that they love to share information when they meet, like two old friends at the park. This happens even between two different bacterial species. As a result, once a single bacterial species has managed to resist antibiotics with a gene s , that gene s can get copied and passed around to other bacteria. How do we measure antibiotic resistance? In order to pick the best antibiotic for treating the infection, its useful to know how effective the antibiotic would be at preventing a bacteria from growing or simply killing the bacteria.

You can do an experiment to figure it out! You can even see how resistant bacteria is to antibiotics by running the same experiment multiple times using a variety of antibiotics.


Next, put increasing amounts of antibiotic into the test tubes doubling the antibiotic concentration as you go. Now wait 24 hours. Some of the tubes have turned cloudy! The concentration of the antibiotic in these tubes are too low to prevent the bacteria from multiplying. Some of the tubes are still clear! The concentration of the antibiotic in these tubes are high enough to prevent the bacteria from multiplying.

The lowest concentration of an antibiotic needed to stop bacteria from multiplying is called the Minimum Inhibitory Concentration MIC. In the diagram above, the MIC is the first clear test tube.

What is antibiotic resistance?

Are the concentrations of the antibiotic in these clear tubes enough to kill the bacteria or just stop them from multiplying? We can find out! Take a small sample of fluid from each of the clear test tubes in step 1 and put each sample into a new test tube filled with broth. Once again wait 24 hours.