Antibiotics, also referred to as antimicrobial drugs, are used to fight infections caused by bacteria. The discovery of Penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1927 greatly transformed medical care as it reduced illness and death rate from bacteria that cause dangerous infections. Ever since, antibiotics have been used extensively for medical and agricultural uses, which has resulted in the development of a phenomenon known as antibiotic resistance.
What Is Antibiotic Resistance?
Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria and microbes resist the effects of antibiotics. Microbes and bacteria become stronger and less responsive to antibiotic drugs by either neutralizing the antibiotics, or changing the functionality of them.
Antibiotic resistance has become a global health crisis as once easy to treat diseases are becoming difficult to treat. Additionally, antibiotic resistance is also resulting in new strains of infectious diseases, which pose a major threat to the future of healthcare.
Major Causes of Antibiotic Resistance
Some of the major causes of antibiotic resistance include:
Misuse of antibiotics
Many patients do not adhere to their dosage and end up taking lower doses than prescribed. Bacteria tend to adapt to these low doses of antibiotics instead of being killed, and eventually build up full resistance against antibiotics. Additionally, doctors often prescribe antibiotics to patients who do not necessary need it.
Use of antibiotics in animals
To increase animal produce, many farmers pump their livestock with antibiotics to prevent infections. As a result, bacteria gradually develop resistance to more and more kinds of antibiotics. These bacteria can be easily transferred to humans through contacts with the infected animals and consumption of these animal products.
The Root of Antibiotic Resistance
Antibiotic resistance occurs due to mutation in the DNA of bacteria, which results in them acquiring antibiotic resistance genes. These resistant genes are then transferred to subsequent generations of the bacteria. When antibiotics are used, bacteria that have not mutated are killed while those with resistant genes survive.
Dealing with Antibiotic Resistance
Finding ways to slow down the spread of antibiotic resistance is essential in reducing the development of new strains of infectious diseases that are antibiotic resistant. One effective way to prevent antibiotic resistance is to educate people on misuse of antibiotics. For example, many people are still not aware of the fact that common colds and the flu cannot be treated by antibiotics as these diseases are caused by viruses. Additionally, people should be taught to strictly stick with the dose prescribed by the doctor.
In turn, doctors should also be encouraged to only recommend antibiotics when necessary. Unfortunately, some doctors prescribe antibiotics even for minor infections that don’t really require antibiotic treatment.