First it was E. coli in American hamburgers. Then E. coli in German sprouts.
E. coli bacteria in food and water supplies have been responsible for disease outbreaks and deaths around the world in recent years.
Now it’s drug resistant E. coli.
Contributing to the problem is the misuse of antibiotics by people, and also giving antibiotics to farm animals.
Antibiotic Resistant E. coli
In a new study, E. coli bacteria exposed to three common antibiotics were more likely to develop antibiotic resistance following low-level antibiotic exposure than after exposure to high concentrations that would kill the bacteria or inhibit their growth. The study done on E. coli was one by scientists from the University of Amsterdam and appears in the journal Microbial Drug Resistance.
(Learn about: Parasites and the Gastrointestinal Tract)
Bacterial resistance to commonly prescribed antibiotics is an enormous and growing problem, largely due to misuse of antibiotics to treat non-bacterial infections and environmental exposure of the bacteria to low levels of antibiotics used, for example, in agriculture. In the article "De Novo Acquisition of Resistance to Three Antibiotics by Escherichia coli," the authors studied how E. coli acquires resistance to three common antibiotics: amoxicillin, tetracycline, and enrofloxacin.
(Read: Fighting Parasites)
Exposure to Antibiotics Changes E. coli
Depending on the antibiotic and the level of exposure, different mechanisms may come into play. The authors report that exposure to antibiotics at relatively low levels–below those needed to inhibit growth of the bacteria–are more likely to result in the development of antibiotic resistance. "Exposure to low levels of antibiotics therefore clearly poses most risk."
That’s why use of antibiotics in food animals, which introduces low levels of antibiotics into the food chain, is such a concern.
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Microb Drug Resist. 2011 Jun;17(2):141-7. Epub 2011 Jan 16. “De Novo Acquisition of Resistance to Three Antibiotics by Escherichia coli.” van der Horst MA, Schuurmans JM, Smid MC, Koenders BB, Ter Kuile BH., Laboratory for Molecular Biology and Microbial Food Safety, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands .
Microbial Drug Resistance is an authoritative peer-reviewed international journal published quarterly in print and online that covers the growing threat and global spread of antibiotic resistant microbial pathogens and resistance genes. Microbial Drug Resistance is published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. Complete tables of content and a free sample issue may be viewed online