Something’s Not Adding Up

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Your dad’s cough just keeps getting worse and he refuses to go to the doctor!  He says the doctor will give him antibiotics and he doesn’t want to become resistant to them.  He heard on the news how bad it is to become resistant to antibiotics and he doesn’t want to chance it. You heard the news report, too, and something’s not adding up. How can you help your dad?


Your alarm clock goes off and you can barelygirl with her head on a desk with books open your eyes to shut it off.  You are so tired!  How are you going to be able to stay awake in class?  Every time you actually fell asleep, you woke up again as your Dad had another bout of coughing. It is getting worse and as usual, he won’t go to the doctor.

You get ready for school, walk into the kitchen, and hear your Mom and Dad arguing. Your dad coughs every time he tries to talk and the cough sounds pretty bad.

man coughing“You have to go to the doctor and get something for this!” You could tell that your mom was going to start yelling pretty soon.

“I’m taking this cough medicine I got from the store, but it’s not working. I don’t want to go to the doctor. He’ll just give me the same thing!” my Dad coughs out.

“Dad, tell him what you took and what didn’t work.  He won’t give you the same thing.  You’re sounding really bad, Dad, and looking even worse. Why not go and get something?  Remember when I got that infection and had to take those antibiotics? They worked pretty fast and I got better.”

“You really needed those antibiotics, but I don’t—not yet.  And we just heard on the news that if you take antibiotics, you can become resistant to them and then they don’t work when you really need them.  I don’t want that to happen.”

You think there wasn’t much to say to that one.  You heard the story on the news about how serious antibiotic resistance was and you even had a section in your bio book about it last week, but something wasn’t adding up here.  You are studying bacteria and infections in biology class and you have to choose a topic to research. You had been struggling for a few days to find a topic—always the hardest part of an assignment like that—and now it looks like you have it! You’ll research antibiotic resistance for the assignment topic, find out what wasn’t adding up, and help your dad at the same time.

Your task:

Find out what antibiotic resistance is, how it occurs, and what the consequences are. Then, be ready to explain it to your teacher and classmates for your assignment and to your mom and dad.  Make sure you investigate the topic thoroughly. Your teacher and your parents will have more questions.

Guiding questions:

  1. What is antibiotic resistance?
  2. How does antibiotic resistance develop? What circumstances cause resistance to develop?
  3. Is there something “not adding up” with your dad’s comment about not wanting to become resistant to antibiotics? Can your Dad become antibiotic resistant by taking antibiotics? Explain.
  4. What are you going to tell your dad about going to the doctor to find out if he needs an antibiotic?
  5. How serious is the problem of antibiotic resistance? Should we be concerned? What are some of the consequences of antibiotic resistance?


Part II (Optional):

Devise an experiment that demonstrates the ability of a bacterium to develop antibiotic resistance.

What would be your hypothesis concerning the outcome of the experiment?

What would your data look like from this experiment?