From Benign to Lethal: The tale of the little E. coli that could
Evolution is a slow moving, unyielding force that acts upon all life forms, leaving fossils and hidden traces in DNA as evidence. The power behind the theory of evolution has never been so fully illustrated as in Harvard Medical School’s recently published clip on YouTube depicting the rapid evolution of bacteria across a massive agar plate. Starting on agar without any form of antibiotics, the E. coli was able to mutate and move across zones of increasing concentrations of antibiotic to not only survive, but thrive and multiply, in agar with 1000 times the concentration of antibiotics that would initially have been at the strain’s minimum inhibition concentration (MIC). This once susceptible E. coli strain overcame all obstacles in only a 10-day exposure. A considerable more significant period of exposure, Penicillin had been used to treat infections since the 1940s. What was once a miracle drug and lead to a dramatic drop in the number in deaths due to bacterial infections has now been used, along with other types of antibiotics, in everything from food production to disease treatment. While the treatment of actually identified and diagnosed bacterial infections is vital, the wide spread use of antibiotics in food production and the over prescription of these antibiotics has led to the spread of antibiotic resistance. According to the CDC, an increasing number of infections are becoming more difficult to treat due to growing antibiotic resistance in bugs like pneumonia which can lead to fevers of 105oC and fluid in the lungs, tuberculosis also known as consumption or the white plague and caused up to 40% of deaths in European cities in the 19th century, and gonorrhea whose severe complications include infertility in women and men and has the potential to become life-threatening as it progresses untreated and spreads to the blood or joint. Antibiotic resistance has become so threatening that even the last resort antibiotic used whenever all others fail against MDR strains, colistin, now has resistance which we see on the mcr-1 gene.
While the CDC is working on educational and accountability programs for both the general public and medical health professionals, there is still the overwhelming fact, as shown in this clip, that any use of antibiotics will lead to antibiotic resistance. The solution is not to throw away all antibiotics and go back to the pre-penicillin era of death by now easily treatable bacterial infections, but to focus on developing and pushing a new set of antibiotics down the pipeline.
At Emery Pharma, our team of experienced scientists can help you in solving this global threat to our health through our range of services, including MIC assays and consulting services, and our vast inventory of bacterial strains including strains at various levels of the CDC’s Biggest threat list from urgent threats such as Clostridium difficile and serious threats like Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus (VRE) and Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
"Antibiotic / Antimicrobial Resistance." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC, 17 Aug. 2016. Web.
"Gonorrhea." WebMD. Ed. Traci C. Johnson. 8 Sept. 2016. Web.
"Tuberculosis in Europe and North America, 1800–1922." Open Collections Program: Contagion. Harvard University Library, Web.