Edited by Robert Halvorsen and David F. Layton
Efforts to control organisms that are harmful to human health and agriculture have encountered the problem of resistance, observed in bacteria (to antibiotics), malarial parasites (to antimalarial drugs), viruses (to antivirals), and pests (to pesticides). In each case, application of control measures increases the likelihood that they will be less effective when used in the future. The effectiveness of the control agents can therefore be considered a natural resource much like fish, trees, oil, or other resources. As with other resources, the optimal management of antibiotic effectiveness is determined by the biological dynamics of bacterial evolution of resistance, spread of infection, and demand for antibiotic treatment. Even before penicillin was introduced, resistant strains of bacteria had been detected (Abraham and Chain 1988). The selection pressure caused by the use of millions of tons of antibiotics over the past 75 years has made virtually all disease-causing bacteria resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat them.
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