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Perspective

Working with pathogens often uses simple technology that is easily adapted for detection of resistance. For example, a resistant bacterium will form a colony on drug-containing agar that prevents growth of susceptible cells. Measuring growth can also be simple. When microbes grow and divide in a liquid culture, they eventually become so concentrated that the medium becomes turbid (cloudy). By measuring the turbidity of a culture, we can obtain a rough estimate of the concentration of microbes.

In the late 1990s, the scientific community mounted a massive effort to determine the nucleotide sequence of the human genome. Rapid sequencing methods emerged that were subsequently applied to many pathogens. As a result, we now have complete nucleotide sequences for most of the medically important microbes. The availability of these sequences encouraged the development of many innovative diagnostic strategies based on nucleic acids. Sequence information also enabled the design of nucleic acid-based antibiotics that were expected to be highly specific. By comparison, our current antibiotics are rather crude agents. So far, few successful nucleic acid antibiotics have been developed, largely due to delivery problems. In the next chapter, we describe the major antibiotic classes to provide a context for considering resistance.


  

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