How Humanity’s Use of Antibiotics Is Engineering the Perfect Superbug
It’s time to take steps to avoid the antibiotic apocalypse
Five years ago, researchers at Harvard Medical School released a video of an experiment, revealing how easy it is for bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics.
The team constructed a large petri dish for growing bacteria and separated it into distinct bands. Across the dish, the bands contained progressively higher concentrations of antibiotic, from 0 to 1,000 times the concentration that bacteria can normally tolerate. Then they grew bacteria, starting in the band with no antibiotics.
Over time, the bacteria grew and spread across the different bands. At the border of each new band, growth paused until antibiotic-resistant mutants emerged and continued spreading across the plate. After only 10 days, the bacteria had become completely resistant to antibiotics at 1,000x concentration due to successive mutations that allowed the bacteria to develop antibiotic resistance.
This experiment demonstrated the frightening ability for bacteria to accumulate successive mutations and “evolve resistance to extremely high concentrations of antibiotics in a short period of time”.
In the future, routine medical procedures such as surgery and chemotherapy may become too dangerous to perform if our antibiotics are no longer effective. If a highly infectious bacterium evolves into a superbug, we may have another pandemic on our hands.
Scientists, have been warning the public for years about this problem. In 2016, before she became the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, MD cautioned that “if we use antibiotics when not needed, we may not have them when they are most needed.”
You thought Covid-19 was bad? A superbug pandemic could be far worse.