Antimicrobial Resistance Timeline

Antimicrobial resistance timelineIf we continue our misuse of antibiotics we are entering a post-antibiotic era. Things as common as a strep throat or as simple as a scraped knee may become life threatening.

There is a worldwide crisis in antibiotics caused by the swift adaptation capabilities among certain microbes. Microbes involved in common infections can acquire resistance and become the cause of untreatable diseases. Every antibiotic that has and will be developed is in danger of becoming useless. In this alarming graph the discovery of and consequent development of antibiotic resistance is illustrated in this Antimicrobial Resistance Timeline.

(click on the Antimicrobial Resistance Timeline on the right for a lager view)

Antimicrobials are compounds or substances used as drugs to kill or slow down the growth of microbes. Over the years there have been multiple mechanisms discovered that where suitable to be uses as an antibiotic; little effect on eukaryotic cells (this includes human cells) and devastation effect on the infecting pathogen.

  • Inhibition of cell wall synthesis
  • Blocking DNA/RNA expression
  • Stopping the folic acid synthesis
  • Inhibiting the protein synthesis
  • And more.

Bacteria in turn developed mechanisms to cope, survive and even thrive in the presence of these drugs by for example: 

  • Producing specific enzymes that destroy the antibiotic substance
  • Modifying the efflux pump forcing the antimicrobial substance out of the bacterial cell
  • Modifying the configuration of target site so that antibiotics cannot bind to it
  • Production of alternative target (enzyme) to bind the antibiotics (block the antibiotic compounds binding site, inhibiting it to bind to the pathogen itself)
  • And more.

In the past seventy years, antibiotics have been vital in humans quest against infectious diseases. Antimicrobial therapy is by far the number one cause for the dramatic rise of average lifespan within the twentieth century. The first discovery of antibiotic properties of compound was by Alexander Flemming in 1928. His penicillin inhibits inhibit the formation of peptidoglycan cross-links in the bacterial cell wall, this destroys the cell wall when the bacteria tries to replicate in the presence of Penicillin. Already in 1943-1944 the first resistance to Penicillin was seen. This is extremely fast considering that the mass production of this drug only started in 1943. It should have been a direct wake up call.

Instead the focus was not on proper antibiotic use but on the discovery of new antibiotics. Bacteria adopted again and again. But the discovery of new antibiotics is slowing down while bacteria continue to thrive as they always have and always will.

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Interesting links: