Antibiotic Resistance: How it Happens, and How to Fight it

Since the 1940s, antibiotics have greatly combatted illnesses and death associated with infectious diseases. However, while we use them to fight infections, bacteria develop defense strategies against them. All this makes antibiotics less effective. Therefore, antibiotics can save lives, but using them carelessly can result in antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance is emerging as one of the biggest threats to global health. Every year, it is seen that almost 2 million people in the U.S. develop infections that are resistant to available antibiotics. In some cases, it can even result in death. Antibiotic resistance can occur naturally. However, it is increasing due to its misuse in humans and animals. Once treatable conditions like pneumonia, tuberculosis, and gonorrhea are now becoming difficult to treat as the antibiotics are becoming less effective. Imagine getting a simple infection and there is nothing you can do about it. This can soon be true if antibiotics are not used wisely. There is no other antibiotic resistance cure than to prevent it.

How Does it Happen?

Antibiotics are “wonder drugs” that fight microbes. They can be used for both prophylaxis and therapeutic purposes. Antibiotics either destroy the microbes or inhibit their growth. Antibiotic resistance is a state where bacteria continue to multiply even when an adequate dose of antibiotic is present.
Antibiotics work by creating selective pressure and target only the microbes responsible for the infection. Increasing rates of infections have resulted in off-labeled use of antibiotics. This is the prime reason for the advent of resistant strains. Let us see how antibiotic resistant strains develop:
Antibiotics kill bacteria responsible for an infection. However, some strong bacteria resist this and become resistant.
Resistant bacteria develop strategies to protect them from antibiotics. They multiply and spread the infection.
The story does not end here. These resistant bacteria can spread drug-resistance to other bacteria.
Wondering how can bacteria develop strategies to become resistant? There are several mechanisms by which bacteria can become resistant. Some bacteria change the site of antibiotics, while others neutralize their effect. Moreover, some bacteria can rapidly remove the antibiotic out of the body. Genetic mutation plays an important role in antibiotic resistance. Bacteria can transfer genes to one another. Other bacteria can also become resistant by acquiring DNA pieces that code for resistance properties.

How To Fight it

To prevent antibiotic resistance, the following measures should be followed:
Use an antibiotic only when recommended by a certified health professional.
Antibiotics are effective only against bacteria and not viruses. Never use antibiotics for viral infection.
Do not share your antibiotics with others or use leftover antibiotics from a previous infection.
Follow your health worker’s advice for consuming antibiotics.
Prevent infections by avoiding close contact with infected people, practicing safer sex, regularly washing hands, preparing food hygienically, and taking vaccinations whenever required.
For preparing food hygienically, follow the WHO Five Keys to Safer Food – keep clean, separate cooked and raw food, cook adequately, keep food at a safe temperature, and use safe raw materials and water.
Choose food that is prepared without the use of antibiotics for disease prevention or growth promotion in animals.
Antibiotics are one of the greatest inventions that changed medicine in the 20th century. They are highly effective against infections and more than 150 million prescriptions are written for antibiotics in the U.S. every year. However, bacteria develop strategies to adapt them and become harder to kill. Antibiotic increases the duration of hospital stay and number of visits to the doctor, increasing the cost of management. More and more bacteria are becoming resistant and the only antibiotic resistance treatment is to prevent it.

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