What Should You Know About Antibiotic Resistance?
Antibiotics save lives from many infectious diseases that once killed many people. But the rising antibiotic resistance reverses the wonders of antibiotics and can even make the common infections hard to treat. Let’s look into what antibiotic resistance is, it's dangerous impact, and how we can reduce the impact and spread of resistance.
What Is Antibiotic Resistance, And How Does It Occur?
Antibiotics, also called as antibacterial agents, are drugs that treat bacterial infections. Over time, certain bacteria develop the ability to survive exposure to antibiotics and continue to grow instead of being killed, which is called antibiotic resistance. The term antimicrobial resistance is used for all pathogens (such as viruses, fungi, bacteria, etc.) when they no longer respond to medications.
Antibiotic resistance is a natural process, but misuse and overuse of antibiotics accelerate the resistance. Microbes such as bacteria are the most adaptable form of life. When bacteria are treated with antibiotics, it kills the sensitive bacteria. But a small group of bacteria may develop defensive strategies against medications. The bacteria may:
- Destroy the medicines with proteins and enzymes that break down the drug
- Mutate (change) so that the medication doesn’t work
- Get rid of the medications using pumps in their cell walls to remove the drugs that enter the cell.
The original antibiotic prescribed can no longer kill resistant bacteria and lead to untreatable infections. A higher dose of the prescribed antibiotic, different medication or multiple medications in combination can be given to treat antibiotic-resistant infections. The worst thing is the resistant bacteria can share their defensive strategies with other bacteria they meet.
Anyone can get affected by antibiotic resistance. The risk is higher in people who have frequent infections requiring antibiotic therapy. Frequently exposing the bacteria to the medicines increases the chance of getting drug-resistant infections. Doctors sometimes prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics (work against various microbes) to treat an infection. It can also increase resistance.
In agriculture, antibiotics can be used to promote growth in plants and animals. When given in meat-producing animals, they may develop resistant bacteria, and these resistant bacteria can be passed to people who eat foods from the meat or other products of these animals.
Why Is Antibiotic Resistance The Huge Threat To Global Health?
According to WHO (World Health Organization), antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest global public health threats. Alarming levels of resistance were reported in countries of all income levels. The Discovery of new antibiotic medications has also become slow. Even if the new medicines are developed, resistance will remain a huge threat without changing the behavior in using the antibiotics.
Resistant bacteria spread in the usual ways as non resistant bacteria. They can spread between people, plants, animals and through food. Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant require advanced treatments and medicines that can cause serious side effects such as organ failure. Recovery can take a longer time.
Antibiotics play a huge role in surgical procedures (such as organ transplants, hip replacements, etc.), cancer therapy, and the treatment of chronic illnesses such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, etc. Antibiotic-resistant infections would make these procedures and disorders risky.
In some cases, these drug-resistant infections have no treatment options and infections can even lead to death. A 2019 report on antimicrobial resistance from WHO says that at least 7,00,000 deaths occur globally per year due to drug-resistant diseases.
How Can We Reduce Antibiotic Resistance?
Proper use of antibiotics is the key factor in reducing the impact and spread of resistance.
- Take antibiotic medications only when prescribed by your physician and take them exactly as directed.
- It is common that people might feel better after taking a few doses of antibiotics and discontinue the medications without consulting the doctor. Don’t skip doses and complete the entire course even if you feel better to prevent antibiotic resistance.
- Don’t save them in an idea to use them if you become sick in future. Never use or share the leftover antibiotics.
- Never use an antibiotic that is prescribed for someone else, which may make you even sicker or cause side effects. Only a physician will prescribe you the right medicine as your overall health and symptoms may require a different medication.
- Avoid taking antibiotics for flu and cold, which are generally caused by viruses. Antibiotics don’t work against viruses.
- Don’t demand the physician to prescribe antibiotics. Using them when antibiotics are not needed is one core reason behind the resistance.
- Try to get the recommended vaccinations without fail.
- To prevent infections, follow general health practices. Wash the hands regularly and stay home when sick. Prepare food hygienically. Avoid close contact with sick people and practice safe sex practices.
Smart Use Of Antibiotics Results In Best Care:
If resistance continues to grow at the current rate, the death from drug-resistant diseases will increase to ten million worldwide per year by 2050. Organizations such as WHO, health care industries, and research institutions are working on various aspects to prevent the resistance. But everyone has the role to play in reducing the impact of antibiotic resistance. Appropriate use of antibiotics ensures the effectiveness of these life-saving medications and helps fight antibiotic resistance.