Multidrug Resistance and Mutation

Some bacteria are resistant to many different antibiotics; they are multidrug-resistant. Multidrug-resistant bacteria can be difficult to treat and facilitates spread of antibiotic resistance.

Why multidrug-resistant bacteria are problematic:

  • Infections with multidrug-resistant bacteria are hard to treat since few or even no treatment options remain. In some cases health care providers have to use antibiotics that are more toxic for the patient.
  • Multidrug-resistance facilitates spread of antibiotic resistance. When multidrug-resistance plasmids are transferred to other bacteria, these become resistant to many antibiotics at once. In environments where bacteria are continuously exposed to antibiotics, like in hospitals or some large production animal farms, multidrug-resistance may be favorable and therefore selected and spread further.
  • Multidrug-resistance complicates efforts to reduce resistance. When many different antibiotics select for the same resistant bacteria or plasmids, reducing use of one type of antibiotic is not enough to reduce resistance to that antibiotic.

Multidrug-resistant bacteria are increasing

There is an increasing prevalence of pathogenic multidrug-resistant bacteria globally. An example is ESBL (extended spectrum beta lactamase)-producing Gram-negative bacteria like E. coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae. ESBLs are enzymes that destroy many clinically important antibiotics. Infections with bacteria expressing ESBLs are hard to treat and are becoming increasingly common. A worrisome trend is that more and more people around the world are asymptomatic carriers of ESBL-producing bacteria. For example, more than 50% of the community populations in some parts of Southeast Asia are colonized with ESBL-producing bacteria according to recent estimates. Numbers are increasing also in other parts of the world. This puts many at risk for future antibiotic-resistant infections.

Will human go demise because of incurable infection? Would this be the leading cause of the Sixth Mass Extinction instead of resource exploitation and pollution?