Escherichia Coli

Antibiotic Resistance: A Primer and Call to Action

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibiotic resistant bacterial strains have surfaced within five years of introduction of every new antibiotic class since the 1960s.  Recent work by CIDD researchers Rachel Smith and Andrew Read discusses the harrowing state of worldwide antibiotic overuse and the resultant levels of increasing antibiotic resistance.  How bad is the resistant problem?  Fifty percent of infections testing positive for Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Staphylococcus aureus show resistance to commonly used antibiotics, a figure that Read and Smith use to emphasize the magnitude of the current resistance problem.  Already alarming, the spread of antibiotic resistance is only predicted to increase as a result of antibiotic abuse and lack of attention on alternatives such as improved hygiene.

Smith et al describe how the useful lifetime of an antibiotic drug is dependent on the time until resistance arises and on the severity of antibiotic use.  Once resistance to an antibiotic arises in one bacterium, the gene encoding resistance can be transferred to other bacteria or passed down to the next generation.   The use of that antibiotic in the population, then, provides a selective advantage for the drug-resistant bacteria.  If the resistant bacteria from one patient spreads to another and on into the larger  population, the antibiotic treatment will be ineffective on a community-wide scale.

Smith and Read’s primer and call to action, published in Health Communication and accessible via, suggests changes to health communication practices  that could slow the evolution of antibiotic resistance.  Interventions, including vaccination and hygiene for the prevention of initial infection, will have to be better understood and enacted by health care providers and the public.  Providers and their patients will need to alter how they request and prescribe antibiotics.  Policy makers will have to determine how best to prepare varying systems for the uptake and diffusion of different beliefs and practices concerning antibiotic use.  Trans-disciplinary health scholars must be ready to accomplish these tasks in order to help slow the development of drug-resistant infections.  

Synopsis written by Liron Bendor.

Written By: Smith RA, M'ikanatha NM, & Read AF

Paper Url:,

Journal: 14:1-6

Journal Reference: 14:1-6

Paper Id: 10.1080/10410236.2014.943634