In GCSE Science, the requirements for keeping healthy is one of the topics looked at. This is the last of six quizzes on that subject and it looks in particular at strains of bacteria which are resistant to antibiotics - otherwise known as 'superbugs'.
Antibiotics have been in use since a team, led by scientists Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, worked out how to produce penicillin in useful quantities. Since then penicillin and other antibiotics, like amoxycillin and flucloxacillin, have saved countless millions of lives.
Unfortunately, owing to the over-use and unnecessary use of these amazing chemicals, bacteria have started to appear that are resistant to antibiotics. One of the best known is MRSA. This strain of bacteria is also resistant to other antibiotics and so is a problem in hospitals. The British press decided to call bacteria resistant to antibiotics 'superbugs' and this nickname stuck.
MRSA isn't the only bacteria resistant to antibiotics - many more superbugs are appearing and the antibiotics that used to kill them no longer work. This is worrying because if all bacteria become resistant, we will be back to the days before penicillin was discovered. But scientists are not just sitting back and letting this happen. They are producing new antibiotics that are able to kill the resistant strains.
How do resistant bacteria arise in the first place? In any population of organisms, there is variation. This variation could produce a few bacteria that are resistant. This could be caused by a mutation or by a gene contained in the bacteria that has been there for a long time. These survive the antibiotic and can go on to reproduce so that eventually, only the resistant strain exist. If someone taking antibiotics does not complete the course, the most resistant bacteria will not be killed. These can then reproduce and create even more bacteria that can resist the effects of antibiotics.