Vancomycin is a very important antibiotic and historically we can see why.
Throughout the twentieth century humans have fought hard against bacterial infections and bacteria which themselves have retaliated by developing resistance to our antibiotics. Vancomycin, however, has been a key player in this war against bacterial pathogens; it has been so important, in fact, that it is often known as the “antibiotic of last resort.”
When no other drug works, this 1.5 kD glycopeptide is used to kill bacteria. It is the antibiotic to which many physicians have turned when fighting Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium difficile. But now, forty years after the drug was introduced into the clinic, the medical community is facing an incipient crisis in the use of vancomycin. More and more bacteria are gaining resistance to a drug that is often still seen as the last hope when trying to cure a bacterial disease.
Vancomycin was introduced into hospitals by scientists more than forty years ago in response to new strains of Staphylococci that were growing resistant to penicillin. As the former wonder drug penicillin became increasingly ineffective in hospitals around the world, physicians began to see vancomycin as the new antibiotic that would keep humans ahead of bacterial pathogens. The introduction of methicillin decreased the use and importance of vancomycin for a few years; however, when methicillin-resistant S. aureus strains appeared in the past two decades, the glycopeptide antibiotic was reinstated as a therapeutic agent.
Vancomycin is now seen as the last-resort drug because it is often the last opportunity that a physician may have to eliminate a bacterial infection, since bacteria have become resistant to so many other drugs and antibiotics