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How and why do "superbugs" develop?
It's not like we don't have enough infectious and life-threatening diseases to worry about, but the advent of "superbugs," or bacteria that is resistant to multiple types of antibiotics, presents additional medical problems. The discovery of antibiotics no doubt has a very big impact in the treatment of infections, however, it is considered as a major factor in the development of these so-called superbugs. Can you explain why and how this happens?
If you have additional ideas about the development of super bugs, please also add.
Aug 14, 2011
Superbugs develop due to bacteria picking up genes for antibiotic resistance from circular pieces of DNA called plasimids. Plasmids carry one gene for anitbiotic resistance and bacteria can pick up more than one plasmid by a process called conjugation. Superbugs tend to occur in hospitals where many types of bacterial infections are treated with different antibiotics drugs. Therefore there is selective pressure for bacteria to keep the plasmid so that they can be resistant to the antibiotic. When bacteria pick up 2 or more plasmids which confer antibiotic resistance to different anitbiotics they are called superbugs as the only way to rid a patient of the infection is to treat the patient with a combination of different types of antibiotics.
Aug 21, 2011
The origin of “superbugs” or antibiotic resistant bacteria is still a field of active study as it is still widely considered a mystery where the genes that are associated with antibiotic resistance came from. There has been evidence presented that antibiotic resistance is something that occurs in nature frequently and that the genes that confer this resistance to non-harmful bacteria (called resistomes) can be transferred to disease causing bacteria. 
There have also been many explanations on why there has been an increase of superbugs namely, the misuse and overuse of both patients and doctors of antibiotics and the increasing use of antibiotics for raising livestock. It is a tendency of evolution to favor stronger organisms through natural selection and with the increased exposure of bacteria to antibiotics, if a mutant strain of bacteria with this drug resistance were to develop, the resistant strain would increase in number as the demands of the environment would force resistant bacteria to become the more dominant characteristic.
As explained by jlweiss, bacteria have the ability to transfer genes between one another either by conjugation (direct cell to cell contact), transduction (transfer of genetic material from one bacteria to another through viruses) or transformation (genetic alterations of a bacteria by picking up genetic material in its environment). As many of these resistance traits are present as plasmids (a single DNA molecule that is independent from chromosomal DNA and can replicate on its own) multiple resistances of a single bacterial strain that has obtained a number of distinct resistance plasmids then leads to a superbug.
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