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Property of a disease-causing organism that allows it to withstand drug therapy. In any population of infectious agents, some have a mutation that helps them resist the action of a drug. The drug then kills more of the nonresistant microbes, leaving the mutants without competition to multiply into a resistant strain. This situation is more likely if the drug is not taken properly (e.g., a course of antibiotics not completed, anti-HIV drug doses missed) or not prescribed properly (e.g., an antibiotic given for a viral disease). Resistance factors can also be transferred between species that infect the same body. The overprescription of antibiotics in humans and the addition of antibiotics to animal feed have accelerated the evolution of resistant strains of bacteria, making it increasingly difficult to fight off certain disease-causing organisms.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on drug resistance, visit Britannica.com.
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