Antibiotic resistance occurs when antibiotics no longer work against disease-causing bacteria. These infections are difficult to treat and can mean longer lasting illnesses, more doctor visits or extended hospital stays, and the need for more expensive and toxic medications. Some resistant infections can even cause death. Although experts are working to develop new antibiotics and other treatments to keep pace with antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, infectious organisms can adapt quickly. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria will continue to be a global health concern — and using antibiotics wisely is important for preventing their spread.
Antibiotics, first used in the 1940s, are certainly one of the great advances in medicine. But overprescribing them has resulted in the development of resistant bacteria, which are bacteria that don’t respond to antibiotics that may have worked in the past. Plus, whenever kids take antibiotics they run the risk of side-effects, such as stomach upset and diarrhea or even a possible allergic reaction. Bacteria are everywhere and most don’t cause any harm, and in some cases may be beneficial. Lactobacillus, for example, lives in the intestine and help digest food.
Microorganisms constantly evolve to efficiently adapt to new environments and antibiotic resistance is one such adaptation. The ability of microorganisms to grow in the presence of an antibiotic that would normally kill them or limit their growth is called antimicrobial resistance. The bacteria which have become resistant cause infections which cannot be treated with the usual drugs, dosages or concentrations. Bacteria which have developed resistance to multiple antibiotics are called multidrug resistant (MDR) bacteria or more commonly, superbugs.
Antibiotic resistance has become a common due to their misuse. It could be in the form of indiscriminate self-medication, prescribing incorrect dosage, not following prescribed dosage, failure to complete the course and excessive use of prophylactic (preventive) antibiotics. Another major reason is prescription of antibiotics to treat viral infections such as the common cold. The availability of antibiotics changed the course of history. Many infections previously not treatable found cure. But with increasing menace of resistant bacteria we are now facing severe infections with little or no antibiotics to cure them.
Drugs that exist have become less effective against antibiotic resistant bacteria. Diseases that were treated easily with mild forms of antibiotics now need to be treated with stronger combination forms of antibiotics. If you are infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria you are more likely to have longer hospital stays and more complicated treatment thereby increasing your medical costs and financial burden. You may be left with potentially untreatable infections increasing the risk of death. Since the duration of infection is longer, there is a greater risk of spread of resistant microorganisms to others. The antibiotic resistant bacteria may compromise the success of cancer chemotherapy, organ transplantation, etc.
Antibiotic resistance is a global health problem. Nearly all significant bacterial infections in the world are becoming resistant to commonly used antibiotics. When you misuse antibiotics, you help create resistant microorganisms that can cause new and hard-to-treat infections. That’s why the decisions you make about using antibiotics — unlike almost any other medicine you take — have far-reaching consequences. Be responsible in how you use antibiotics to protect your health and that of your family, neighbors and community. Ever since Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered penicillin in 1928, antibiotics have been instrumental in saving human lives and revolutionizing medicine. If we want them to continue to do so for generations to come, we need to stop popping them every time we have a cold!