2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 1619, 2005)
Paper No. 6-4
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-9:30 AM

TEACHING ABOUT EVOLUTION AND ITS APPLICATIONS: ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE

BERGSTROM, Carl T., Biology, University of Washington, Box 351800, Seattle, WA 98195-1800, cbergst@u.washington.edu

Only two decades ago, an antibiotic known as vancomycin was the ultimate "silver bullet", virtually 100% effective against many species of bacteria. By the mid 1990's, however, vancomycin had lost its power. More than a quarter of the patients in the intensive care wards of US hospitals were carried bacterial strains resistant to vancomycin, and worse yet, some of those strains could not be treated with any other drug!

This story has been repeated each time we have invented a new antibiotic. Why do bacteria become resistant to each new antibiotic that we deploy? How do broadly effective drugs stop working so quickly? And how can we keep our current generation of silver bullet antibiotics from suffering a similar fate? To answer these questions, we need to understand how antibiotic resistant bacteria evolve, we need to understand how these resistant strains of bacteria spread through human populations, and we need to understand how we can manage and control the evolutionary process itself. In this talk, I address these questions, and present the antibiotic resistance problem as a superb case study for teaching high school and college students about evolution. In this case study, we see that (1) observable evolutionary change occurs in real time, and (2) evolution is not merely an abstruse academic discipline but rather a matter of acute public health importance.

2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 1619, 2005)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 6
Speaking Out for Evolution: Rationale and Resources for Supporting the Teaching of Evolution
Salt Palace Convention Center: Ballrooms AC
8:00 AM-12:00 PM, Sunday, 16 October 2005

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 37, No. 7, p. 21

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