Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotics are medications that are used to treat bacterial infections. Since their invention, approximately 70 years ago antibiotics have saved countless lives. Unfortunately, antibiotics have also been misused and over used over the last 70 years, leading to some bacteria developing a resistance to them. Bacterium who have developed resistance are very difficult to kill. According to the CDC approximately 2 million people are infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria each year in the United States and approximately 23,000 of them die as a result of their infection.

Some diseases, such as Gonorrhorea, may soon become untreatable because the bacteria which causes the disease has become so resistant to available antibiotics and no new antibiotics for these illnesses are being developed.

There are resistant strains of many types of bacteria, including, streptococcus and staphylococcus, culprits of common ailments such as sore throats and sinus infections.

Antibiotic resistance is a global health threat. In Africa, multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) has been responsible for many deaths.

What Causes Antibiotic Resistance?

Antibiotic resistance is a natural phenomenon. When a bacterium is exposed to an antibiotic but not outright killed, and its growth is not inhibited, it will mutate, developing traits that make it resistant to the antibiotic in the future. Since it is a natural phenomenon, bacteria will naturally find ways to resist medications, however, what we do with our medications can speed or slow this process.

The misuse and overuse of antibiotics has greatly accelerated the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Examples of misuse include using the wrong type of antibiotic for a certain infection, not finishing the full course of antibiotics, or not using the correct dose of antibiotics. Overuse of antibiotics includes using antibiotics when they are not necessary, such as taking antibiotics for a cold virus.

What Can Be Done About Antibiotic Resistance?

The actions of everyone including healthcare providers and patients can affect antibiotic resistance. Here are some ways you can help:

Prevent the Spread of Illness

Prevent the spread of illness by washing your hands, getting vaccinated, staying at home when you are sick and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Take care when cooking or preparing food to prevent the spread of food born illnesses. Learn ways to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

Only Use Antibiotics When Necessary

Antibiotics do not kill viruses or micro-organisms other than bacteria. Using antibiotics to cure a cold will not help you get better any faster. Ideally you should not take antibiotics unless you have had a laboratory test confirming your illness is caused by a bacteria or your doctor has determined it is most likely caused by a bacteria and a laboratory test is not possible.

Follow the Directions

Any time you are prescribed an antibiotic you should take it exactly as prescribed.

Follow the directions on the the bottle carefully and do not stop taking the medication early even if you feel better. Your symptoms may improve before your infection is completely cured. If you need to stop a medication due to side effects make sure you contact your doctor.

Sources:

CDC. Antibiotic / Antimicrobial Resistance. Accessed: June 29, 2015 from http://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/

CDC. About Antimicrobial Resistance. Accessed: June 30, 2015 from http://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/about.html

CDC. Protecting Yourself and Your Family. Accessed: June 30, 2015 from http://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/protecting_yourself_family.html

FDA. Combating Antibiotic Resistance. Accessed: June 29, 2015 from http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm092810.htm

WHO. Antimicrobial Resistance. Accessed: June 29, 2015 from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs194/en/

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