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Thread: Antibiotic overuse may give bacteria an evolutionary boost page

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    Lewis's Avatar
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    Antibiotic overuse may give bacteria an evolutionary boost

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    By flooding our environment with antibiotics, people may alter a little-appreciated but profound aspect of bacterial evolution: the very pace at which it occurs. Bacteria may evolve more rapidly and more radically than just a few decades ago.

    This proposition is still a hypothesis, but itís an intriguing one. ...
    Antibiotic overuse may give bacteria an evolutionary boost | Ars Technica

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    I have no doubt that antibiotic overuse and misuse is causing bacterial evolution and antibiotic resistance.

    I think it is a bit of a difficult concept for some people to understand, because they visualise it as bacteria LEARNING to be antibiotic resistant or LEARNING to become stronger.
    We have to keep in mind it's an inter-generational thing. One bacteria has a mutation, that allows it to survive the antibiotics (for example, a lot of antibiotics work by inhibiting protein synthesis in the bacteria - one bacteria might have a mutation that means it synthesizes proteins in a different way, so the antibiotics aren't effective on this one bacteria). That ONE bacteria then replicates itself, and now there are 2 which are surviving. This obviously happens many times until you now have a colony of mutated bacteria that are antibiotic resistant.

    I guess from this you could continue on to hypothesize that by killing the other antibiotic susceptible bacteria, we are speeding this up. Normally replication is limited by factors such as food, light, space. The other bacteria crowd out eachother. When you kill all the non-mutated bacteria, it leaves room for the mutated ones to replicate faster and with more ease. We're effectively speeding up their rate of evolution.

    This is why I don't use antibacterial soaps or alcohol hand sanitiser or anything. I'm actually on antibiotics right now ironically, but only because I have an issue that my body is obviously not dealing with on its own.

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    Lewis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nixxy View Post
    When you kill all the non-mutated bacteria, it leaves room for the mutated ones to replicate faster and with more ease.
    That's similar to what's now said in a more general sense about those anti-bacterial handcleaners -- that your skin has a population of benign bacteria, just as your gut has, so if you take the "terminate with extreme prejudice" approach and try to wipe everything out, you only leave more room for anything nasty that survives to spread.

    It'd be rather like taking a flamethrower or Agent Orange or something to your lawn on the supposition that there might be a few dandelions in it. If you succeeded in your scorched earth policy, but didn't get all the weeds they'd only have more of a free run in the absence of the grass. Better to tend it a little and keep it mown, which tends to encourage the grass.

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