What is Antibiotic Resistance?
Antibiotic resistance happens when micro-organisms like bacteria and fungi develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. Sometimes, this happens on purpose like when scientists engineer bacteria to be resistant to certain antibiotics while pursuing important research.
Other times, antibiotic resistance happens in the wild, involuntarily, and leads to problems like pathogenic (dangerous) bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics used to cure infections. These are antibiotic-resistant bacteria or "superbugs". You may have already heard that there are massive amounts of antibiotics used in aquaculture, and in livestock agriculture, which results in high doses of antibiotics being released into the environment. This antibiotic being present in the environment can lead to antibiotic resistance in the wild.
Can antibiotic resistance spread?
Being concerned about antibiotic resistance when using antibiotics for your science experiment is a legitimate concern. We're glad you are thinking about your impact on the environment! This is what responsible science is all about, and it is something we also pay strict attention to when creating experiments for you. Let's explore antibiotic resistance in the context of Amino Labs's biotechnology experiments.
A very low concentration of antibiotics is used in Amino Labs' experiment kits like the Engineer-it Kit experiment to help you grow only the cells that you have engineered. This works because when you engineer your bacteria, you give them antibiotic resistance. Your engineered bacteria survive and other non-engineered cells do not. A common question is about the danger of giving bacteria antibiotic resistance and how that relates to the antibiotic-resistant strains of “super bacteria”, such as MRSA, that we hear about in the news.
The antibiotics used in the Engineer-it Kit are rarely used in hospitals because resistance to it became common decades ago during the era of excessive antibiotic prescribing from the 1950s-to 1990s. Now antibiotics are prescribed much more carefully to reduce antibiotic resistance from spreading. Further, the bleach used in the inactivation process will oxidize much of the remaining chloramphenicol rendering it inert.
A second question might arise around the safety of the antibiotic itself. The antibiotic used is encapsulated in a gelatin shell, containing it, even if touched by bare skin. But, further, the amount of antibiotic in the capsule is about 5,000 times less than would have been typically prescribed for a daily dose to a child.
| Antibiotic facts for Amino Labs' experiment kits:
- All of our bacteria-based experiment kits, save for the Induce-it Kit, use the antibiotic chloramphenicol (CAP). The Induce-it Kit uses the antibiotic Ampicillin (AMP).
- CAP is obtained naturally from Streptomyces venezuelae and thus already present naturally in the environment.
- AMP is a derivative of Penicillium mould which is already present naturally in the environment.
- The amount of antibiotic in each antibiotic pill is about 1/5000th a single dose/pill of antibiotic prescribed for a toddler. In addition to the bacteria breaking down the CAP/AMP in the agar, when the CAP/AMP is dissolved in the bleach water and then flushed in the toilet, the amount of antibiotic is will be so dilute it will have no “selection” impact on organisms in the environment and therefore not cause any resistant bacteria to arise. In other words, if you were to accidentally drop one tablet of human/pet antibiotic in the toilet, it would be the equivalent of 5000 Engineer-it Kits' worth of antibiotics!