Could you imagine a world without antibiotics? Potentially deadly infections and diseases unable to be treated by the infection-fighting drug. This could be a dangerous future, with the government warning that without effective antibiotics, even routine operations and minor surgery could become high risk procedures. In this article we’ll be looking at what we need to know about antibiotic resistance and the things we can do to stop it or limit its effects.
What Are Antibiotics?
World Health Organisation (WHO) describes antibiotics (part of antimicrobials – which include antibiotics, antiprotozoal, antifungal and antiviral medicines) as medicines that are used to prevent and treat bacterial infections. The NHS explains that antibiotics work by killing bacteria or stopping them from reproducing and spreading, however they don’t work for everything. They are not effective for viral infections such as the cold or flu, or most coughs and sore throats.
What Is Antibiotic Resistance?
According to WHO, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) happens when microorganisms such as bacteria, parasites and fungi change when they are exposed to antimicrobial drugs and survive exposure instead of being killed or their growth stopped. Regular exposure to antimicrobials prompts bacteria or other organisms to begin adapting to be able to survive those drugs.
Antibiotic resistance has always been around, and as long as new drugs keep being developed, resistance isn’t a problem. However, according to the BBC there hasn’t been a new class of antibiotic drugs developed since the 1980s, until the discovery of Malacidin early this year, which is said to be able to fight resistant superbugs. Despite this, the danger of antibiotic resistance is still there, and we must still work to avoid it.
The BBC explains that there has been a drastic overuse of antibiotics. They suggest that the causes include doctors spending decades handing out antibiotics to any patient that asked regardless of their need, countries viewing and selling antibiotics as over-the-counter medicine, as well as antibiotics being used in agriculture and on livestock to reduce infection and as a method to speed up growth.
There are much wider risks to antibiotic resistance as England’s chief medical officer, Sally Davies, explains in the Guardian. She gives examples of major and standard operations such as transplant surgery, abdominal surgery or appendix removal which are possible and safe because antibiotics protect patients from infections during the procedure. If the bacteria becomes resistant to antibiotics, patients are no longer protected from surgery procedures and people may having, for example, abdominal surgery die of peritonitis (an infection of the inner lining of the stomach) or other infections.
Are There Ways to Help Reduce the Spread of Antibiotic Resistance?
WHO recommends some simple actions that everyone can take:
- only use antibiotics when prescribed by your doctor
- don’t use antibiotics to treat viral infections such as a cold, flu or sore throat, instead ask your doctor about other remedies
- when you are prescribed antibiotics, take the full course even if you feel better because stopping treatment early can promote the growth of drug-resistant bacteria
- never share antibiotics or use leftover prescriptions.
We hope for more antibiotics classes to be discovered to help possible antibiotic resistance even further, but for now we need to try and take the advice of health organisations to help stop the spread of antibiotic resistance.
Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only and does not substitute the medical advice from a healthcare professional.