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Understanding antibiotic resistance
Understanding antibiotic resistance

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Week 5: How antibiotic resistance has become such a big problem


In Weeks 3 and 4, you learned how some bacteria have an innate ability to resist the action of a particular antibiotic. Other bacteria acquire the ability to resist one or more antibiotics through genetic mutation or horizontal gene transfer. You also learned how evolution and natural selection contribute to the rapid spread of acquired antibiotic resistance both within and between bacterial types.

This week, you will discover how the mismanagement of antibiotics, coupled with behaviours that promote the spread of infections, has increased the rate of antibiotic resistance.

Drug-resistant bacteria lead to infections which are difficult to treat and are a significant and growing healthcare concern. By the end of this week, it should be clear that the current global health crisis, with record levels of antibiotic resistance, has been fuelled by human activity.

By the end of this week, you should be able to:

  • describe the scale and nature of antibiotic resistance worldwide
  • summarise how antibiotic resistance spreads
  • explain how the overuse and misuse of antibiotics contribute to bacterial resistance
  • list the factors which have prevented new antibiotics coming onto the market
  • recognise how a lack of laboratory capacity and inadequate surveillance contribute to the development and spread of antibiotic resistance.