The Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance

In This Chapter

^ Appreciating the power of antibiotics

^ Understanding the evolutionary pressure that causes antibiotic resistance ^ Figuring out what to do next there's an interesting tidbit to throw out at your next dinner party: Our W rn bodies have been colonized by all manner of bacteria. Yes, that's right; you are your own big blue marble. Fortunately, many of the bacteria that have set up housekeeping in your body are commensal bacteria: They colonize your skin or your gastrointestinal tract and are rarely of any concern. Others, however, such as Staphylococcus aureus, aren't such good citizens. They hang around on your skin and in your nasal (and other) passages, looking for ways to stir up trouble.

So why aren't you sick all the time? Because your immune system does a pretty good job of keeping potentially harmful bacteria at bay. And when your immune system has trouble, antibiotics — compounds designed to kill or neutralize infectious agents — can help. There's one hitch, though: Bacteria evolve in ways that make them better at overcoming our bodies' defenses and more resistant to the antibiotics we use to get rid of them.

In this chapter, I explain the evolution of antibiotic resistance in bacteria and show that the way humans use (and overuse) antibiotics is directly related to how bacteria evolve.

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