PhotoAt the beginning of the year, health officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that antibiotic resistance was a major concern going into 2016. After all, diseases that are able to adapt to drugs that are currently used to treat them are very dangerous.

Now, a new study shows that some of the preconceived notions that the scientific community had about antibiotic resistance were misinformed, and it doesn’t bode well for the rest of us.

Up until now, many scientists believed that antibiotic resistance came at a cost for the bacteria that had it; namely, they believed that bacteria that had this trait were weaker. However, new findings show that this may not be true.

“Recent findings revealed a complicated love story between antibiotic resistance and bacterial virulence. There was an ancient paradigm about the ‘fitness cost of antibiotic resistance,’ but the emergence of new technologies of high-throughput sequencing has changed the field, allowing researchers to study bacterial pathogenesis at the genome scale,” said senior author Dr. David Skurnik.

New therapeutic approaches needed

So what does being able to look at these bacteria more closely mean in the long run? Well, it seems that closer examination reveals that bacteria with antibiotic resistance aren’t necessarily weaker than other strains. In fact, the opposite may be true.

“This new, unbiased approach has revealed that unfortunately the worst case scenario of antibiotic resistant bacteria being more fit and virulent was not uncommon, particularly during infection,” said Skurnik.

With this in mind, researchers and medical professionals will need to adapt to fight bacterial diseases that have antibiotic resistant traits. Coming up with new therapies, in particular, will be an important step going forward.

“We need now, more than ever before, new antibacterial therapeutics to by-pass the infernal circle linked to antibiotic resistance that starts when an antibiotic is prescribed,” said Skurnik.

The full study has been published in the journal Bioessays.

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