Antibiotics are defined as chemical compounds that kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria when used in low concentrations. They have been used therapeutically to cure bacterial diseases since the introduction of sulfa drugs in the 1930s, but most effectively since the introduction of penicillin in the 1940s. During the ensuing decades health scientists increasingly recognized that antibiotic treatment leads to evolutionary increases in resistance. This recognition represents the first widespread influence of evolutionary thinking on medical practice. During the past fifty years the effectiveness of antibiotics has deteriorated broadly, leading researchers to develop a comprehensive understanding of the evolution of antibiotic resistance and options for curbing it.
Since the 1960s, mainstream analyses have recognized that antimicrobial resistance is a global problem, exacerbated by different processes in different regions (Neu 1992; O’Neill 2014–2016; Friedman, et al. 2016). In resource-rich countries, it is fueled in hospitals, private practice, and agricultural settings (Lappé 1982, Levy 2002). In resource poor countries, in addition to these influences, resistance is exacerbated by the availability of antimicrobials without prescription (Choffnes, et al. 2010). In rich and poor countries alike, the evolution of antimicrobial resistance involves a conflict of interest between the value of antimicrobials to treated individuals and the costs to the population that arise from the consequent evolution of antimicrobial resistance (Hardin 1968, Baquero and Campos 2003). Mainstream assessments generally focus on evolutionary processes as the cause of the problem, but not as part of the solution (Chadwick and Goode 1997, Bergstrom and Feldgarden 2008). Suggestions for courses of action therefore generally rely on more prudent use of antimicrobials than on innovative ways to incorporate evolutionary processes as part of the solution (Choffnes, et al. 2010).
Baquero, F., and J. Campos. 2003. The tragedy of the commons in antimicrobial chemotherapy. Revista Espanola de Quimioterapia 16.1: 11–13.
Presents the connections between the evolution of antibiotic resistance and the conflict between the short-term benefit of antibiotics to individual patients and the long-term cost of antibiotic resistance to the population.
Bergstrom, C. T., and M. Feldgarden. 2008. The ecology and evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In Evolution in health and disease. Edited by S. C. Stearns and J. C. Koella, 125–137. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.
An overview of the antibiotic resistance problem within a framework based on ecological and evolutionary principles.
Chadwick, D. J., and J. Goode, eds. 1997. Antibiotic resistance: Origins, evolution, selection, and spread. Papers presented at Symposium on Antibiotic Resistance, held at the Ciba Foundation, London, 16–18 July 1996. CIBA Foundation Symposium 207. New York: Wiley.
A collection of articles by experts on antibiotic resistance, with a broad incorporation of perspectives that had been brought to bear on the problem at the end of the 20th century.
Choffnes, E. R., D. A. Relman, and A. Mack. 2010. Antibiotic resistance: Implications for global health and novel intervention strategies: Workshop summary. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Generated from a workshop sponsored by the US Institute of Medicine, this book addresses possible strategies for control of resistance, including alternative treatments, incentives for altering use of antimicrobials, and the development of new antimicrobials.
Friedman, N. D., E. Temkin, and Y. Carmeli. 2016. The negative impact of antibiotic resistance. Clinical Microbiology and Infection 22.5: 416–422.
An overview of negative effects of antibiotic resistance.
Hardin, G. 1968. The tragedy of the commons. Science 162.3859: 1243–1248.
Presents the conflict between actions that are beneficial to individuals in the short term (e.g., antibiotic treatment) and outcomes that are suboptimal to the group as a whole in the long term (e.g., antibiotic resistance).
Lappé, M. 1982. Germs that won’t die: Medical consequences of the misuse of antibiotics. New York: Anchor.
An early call to the dangers of antibiotic resistance written for a general audience.
Levy, Stuart B. 2002. The antibiotic paradox. Cambridge, MA: Perseus.
An engaging, overview of the general problem of antibiotic resistance for a general audience.
Neu, H. C. 1992. The crisis in antibiotic resistance. Science 257.5073: 1064–1073.
A seminal paper that helped raise awareness of antibiotic resistance from a medical concern to an impending crisis.
O’Neill, J. (chair). 2014–2016. The review on antimicrobial resistance: Tackling drug-resistant infections globally. London: Wellcome Trust and UK Government.
A collection of reports that address approaches to cope with the problem of antimicrobial resistance, including reduction in the use of antibiotics, use of alternatives to antibiotics, and development of new antibiotics.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
- Adaptive Radiation
- Ancient DNA
- Behavioral Ecology
- Canalization and Robustness
- Character Displacement
- Cognition, Evolution of
- Constraints, Evolutionary
- Contemporary Evolution
- Convergent Evolution
- Cooperation and Conflict: Microbes to Humans
- Cooperative Breeding in Insects and Vertebrates
- Cryptic Female Choice
- Darwin, Charles
- Disease Virulence, Evolution of
- Ecological Speciation
- Epigenetics and Behavior
- Eusocial Insects as a Model for Understanding Altruism, Co...
- Evidence of Evolution, The
- Evolution and Development: Genes and Mutations Underlying ...
- Evolution, Cultural
- Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance
- Evolution of New Genes
- Evolution of Plant Mating Systems
- Evolution of Specialization
- Evolutionary Biology of Aging
- Evolutionary Biomechanics
- Evolutionary Computation
- Evolutionary Ecology of Communities
- Experimental Evolution
- Field Studies of Natural Selection
- Founder Effect Speciation
- Frequency-Dependent Selection
- Fungi, Evolution of
- Gene Duplication
- Gene Expression, Evolution of
- Gene Flow
- Genetics, Ecological
- Genome Evolution
- Geographic Variation
- Group Selection
- History of Evolutionary Thought, 1860–1925
- History of Evolutionary Thought before Darwin
- History of Evolutionary Thought Since 1930
- Human Behavioral Ecology
- Human Evolution
- Hybrid Speciation
- Hybrid Zones
- Identifying the Genomic Basis Underlying Phenotypic Variat...
- Inbreeding and Inbreeding Depression
- Inclusive Fitness
- Innovation, Evolutionary
- Kin Selection
- Land Plants, Evolution of
- Landscape Genetics
- Landscapes, Adaptive
- Language, Evolution of
- Macroevolutionary Rates
- Male-Male Competition
- Mass Extinction
- Mate Choice
- Maternal Effects
- Medicine, Evolutionary
- Meiotic Drive
- Modern Synthesis, The
- Molecular Clocks
- Molecular Phylogenetics
- Mutualism, Evolution of
- Natural Selection in Human Populations
- Natural Selection in the Genome, Detecting
- Neutral Theory
- New Zealand, Evolutionary Biogeography of
- Niche Construction
- Niche Evolution
- Non-Human Animals, Cultural Evolution in
- Origin and Early Evolution of Animals
- Origin of Eukaryotes
- Origin of Life, The
- Paradox of Sex
- Parental Care, Evolution of
- Personality Differences, Evolution of
- Phenotypic Plasticity
- Phylogenetic Comparative Methods and Tests of Macroevoluti...
- Phylogenetic Trees, Interpretation of
- Polyploid Speciation
- Population Genetics
- Population Structure
- Post-Copulatory Sexual Selection
- Psychology, Evolutionary
- Punctuated Equilibria
- Quantitative Genetic Variation and Heritability
- Reaction Norms, Evolution of
- Reproductive Proteins, Evolution of
- Selection, Directional
- Selection, Disruptive
- Selection Gradients
- Selection, Natural
- Selection, Sexual
- Selfish Genes
- Sexual Conflict
- Sexual Selection and Speciation
- Sexual Size Dimorphism
- Speciation Genetics and Genomics
- Speciation, Sympatric
- Species Concepts
- Sperm Competition
- Systems Biology
- Taxonomy and Classification
- Tetrapod Evolution
- Trends, Evolutionary
- Wallace, Alfred Russel