From the discovery of penicillin in 1928, antibiotics have revolutionized the medical field saving thousands of lives each year. However, by random mutation, bacteria have evolved to withstand antibiotics and multiply at an exponential rate spreading their immunity to future generations. As bacteria have become more immune to antibiotics, there is an increasing struggle to develop stronger drugs to combat equally strong bacteria. Unfortunately, as the treatment options dwindle, these superbugs are winning the fight. Globally, antibiotic resistance results in 700,000 deaths each year. This number is expected to rise to 10 million by 2050, overburdening healthcare systems and exerting a projected economic burden of 100 trillion dollars.
WHAT CAUSES ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE?
The CDC estimates at least 30% of outpatient antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary. Most inappropriate use of antibiotics in outpatient facilities occurs when antibiotics are prescribed for viral respiratory infections, such as viral bronchitis, otitis, and sinusitis.
Antibiotics should be taken exactly as prescribed for their full course. Failure to take complete dosages gives any bacteria left behind the opportunity to mutate and develop antibiotic resistance.
The United States uses more antibiotics per pound of meat than any other nation. Almost all intensively farmed animals in the U.S. receive regular low levels of antibiotics in feed or water, opening the opportunity for natural selection of resistant bacteria to proliferate.
INEFFECTIVE LAB TESTING
Rapid laboratory testing is essential in the effort to combat antibiotic resistance. The ability to quickly identify whether an illness is viral or bacterial in origin helps physicians avoid overprescription of antibiotics and assists public health bodies to surveil levels of bacterial infections.
Frequent hygienic maintenance, especially handwashing, prevents the spread of germs. By doing so, individuals mitigate the spread of bacteria which may possibly harbor resistance genes to certain antibiotics. In clinical settings such as hospitals, this only becomes increasingly necessary, as many patients receiving care may be experiencing bacterial infections.
The use of antibiotics in agricultural practices can result in the materialization of resistant bacteria to the diets of consumers. Consumption of crops that are free of antibiotic use is an efficient way to mitigate the spread of such bacteria.
Team UFlorida has tackled the global healthcare crisis of antibiotic resistance through wet lab experiments and outreach. The wet lab portion of our project was completed in two parts: creating alternative selectable markers to antibiotic resistance genes, and creating a two plasmid conjugation system to deliver CRISPR to create lethal double stranded breaks in the target bacterial chromosome. Our human practices division has devoted much time raising awareness in our community on the basics of antibiotic resistance, personal hygiene, and selecting food free of antibiotics for consumption. Read our project description for more information!