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This is the fifth part of a multipart series on antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

The previous installments:

1. A primer on antibiotic resistance: an introduction to the question of antibiotic resistance.

2. Natural vs. synthetic drugs: what is the difference between an antibiotics and synthetic drugs.

3. How do antibiotics kill bacteria? a general discussion of the pathways where antibiotics can act and one characteristic that helps some bacteria survive.

4. Are antibiotics really only made by bacteria and fungi? It depends on what you’d like to call them.

Before we go on, I think it’s time for a quick summary. There are five ways that I know of that allow bacteria to escape death.

The five paths to antibiotic resistance

1. Persistance is resistance: Most antibiotics kill by acting on the metabolic pathways needed for bacteria growth. Ironically, bacteria can survive by not growing. Read more about it.

2. The Star Wars Strategy: Destroy (or modify) the antibiotic before it destroys you.

3. Pump it out. Pump it out. Pump it out. Just like taking syrup of Ipecac. If bacteria could puke, this is how they’d do it.

4. Hide and go seek. Change the binding site or hide the target. Mutations or modifications, either one will do the trick.

5. The bypass mechanism. If one pathway doesn’t work, find another.

So what does this have to do with taking antibiotics for ten days? And why can’t I get antibiotics whenever I’m sick? And why do I care if cattle are fed antibiotics or not?

We’ll come to these questions, all in good time and no particular order, and then explore how and where bacteria get these amazing abilities.

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