How fast can bugs develop resistance?

Bugs can develop resistance to antibiotics during treatment and probably because of that treatment. As infectious disease specialist, Brad Spellberg, MD, told Frontline:

I have watched some of these pathogens develop new resistance in the middle of a course of therapy.

Just within days?

Within days.

That means that that antibiotic has basically stopped working while you’re treating the patient.

The way you know that the resistance has emerged in the middle of a course of therapy is the patient is very sick. You start the antibiotic; they get better. On day three or four, all of a sudden they get sick again, and back comes the same bacteria that you thought you eradicated. And now when you sent it to the lab, instead of “S” for “susceptible,” it says “R” for “resistance.”

So what do you do, switch to another and another?

If you have another, you switch to another.

But sometimes you don’t have another. Here’s Dr. Spellberg explaining what that’s like:

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