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J Antimicrob Chemother. 2002 Jan;49(1):25-30.

The 2000 Garrod lecture. Factors impacting on the problem of antibiotic resistance.

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Center for Adaptation Genetics and Drug Resistance, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02111, USA.


Antibiotic resistance has become a major clinical and public health problem within the lifetime of most people living today. Confronted by increasing amounts of antibiotics over the past 60 years, bacteria have responded to the deluge with the propagation of progeny no longer susceptible to them. While it is clear that antibiotics are pivotal in the selection of bacterial resistance, the spread of resistance genes and of resistant bacteria also contributes to the problem. Selection of resistant forms can occur during or after antimicrobial treatment; antibiotic residues can be found in the environment for long periods of time after treatment. Besides antibiotics, there is the mounting use of other agents aimed at destroying bacteria, namely the surface antibacterials now available in many household products. These too enter the environment. The stage is thus set for an altered microbial ecology, not only in terms of resistant versus susceptible bacteria, but also in terms of the kinds of microorganisms surviving in the treated environment. We currently face multiresistant infectious disease organisms that are difficult and, sometimes, impossible to treat successfully. In order to curb the resistance problem, we must encourage the return of the susceptible commensal flora. They are our best allies in reversing antibiotic resistance.

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