Antibiotic Resistance and the Effect to Our Health

November 11th 2019

 Educating people on Antibiotic use could be a life saver!

“The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops. Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non – lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.” A quote from Alexander Fleming’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1945. Alexander Fleming was the discoverer of the first antibiotic substance – Penicillin.

What are Antibiotics?

First of all, let’s start with this basic question… What exactly are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are important medications made from microorganisms (most are now synthetically manufactured) that help to destroy or inhibit the growth of other microorganisms. They are used to treat bacterial infections but they won’t treat viral infections.

When should Antibiotics be used?

Antibiotics should be used to treat bacterial infections such as:

  • Most sinus infections
  • Strep throat
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Most ear infections
  • Nasty bacterial skin infections

Antibiotics are useless and shouldn’t be used for viral infections such as:

  • Cold
  • Flu (Influenza)
  • Bronchitis
  • Most coughs
  • Some ear infections
  • Some sinus infections
  • Stomach flu

If you have a viral infection and you take antibiotics, they will attack bacteria in your body that are probably beneficial (including the ones in our intestines) as well as the ones that are not causing diseases. That is one of the reasons why antibiotic resistance occurs. A fifth of antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary! Coughs or bronchitis may take two to three weeks to clear on their own and antibiotics only reduce that by just one to two days. An estimated of 5000 people die in England each year as a result of drug-resistant infections. Statistics show that if the use of antibiotics continuous to be the same in the upcoming years; by 2050 worldwide more people will die from drug-resistant infections than from cancer.

What is Antibiotic Resistance?

Antibiotic Resistance occurs when bacteria develop immunity and defeat antibiotics that were originally designed to kill them. The bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, therefore instead of destroying them or preventing their growth, they in turn multiply. Antibiotic Resistance is a huge obstacle in treating infectious diseases caused by bacteria.

How does antibiotic resistance occur?

One important reason why antibiotic resistance occurs is that it evolves via natural selection through random mutation. Meaning that some bacteria have a mutation and carry resistance genes which allow them to survive and reproduce. By this way the trait will be then passed on to the offspring, therefore, a fully resistant generation will develop.

Other important factors resulting in antibiotic resistance are:

  • Incorrect diagnosis and over – prescription of antibiotics
  • Patients not completing the entire medication course
  • The use of antibiotics on livestock as food additives for growth promotion
  • Poor hygiene and infection control in hospitals

BUT the real question here is… How can we contribute to this battle against antibiotic resistance?

By following these simple guidelines given below you can help in the prevention of this concerning global issue.

  • Only use antibiotics when it’s an absolute necessity.  That means you can only take a specific antibiotic that would be effective against the specific bacteria that causes you to be ill
  • Never take antibiotics for sore throat, influenza or the common cold as they will not have an effect on them.
  • If your doctor prescribes you with antibiotics follow their advice on when to take them and for how long.
  • Never share with others your prescribed antibiotics
  • Hygiene is very important in preventing infections; therefore, you have to wash your hands regularly, keeping your surroundings clean and free of bacteria as much as you can.

Antibiotic Resistance cannot be reversed but we can educate ourselves on the importance of Alexander Fleming’s discovery and how or when antibiotics should be used!