I once saw, in my life time a mother who gave her child antibiotics for just about any sign or suspicion of ailment or infection – cough, cold, malaria, you just name it…this is surely beyond drug abuse. Apparently, this stems from her belief that good quality antibiotics can cure just about any ailment or disease. In her words, “I need to give him his antibiotics, once he takes it, he will be fine”. Unfortunately, the human system would develop some resistance along the way with continuous exposure to antibiotics.
Facts: Illnesses or diseases can be caused by bacteria, virus, algae, fungi, and so on, however, antibiotics are drugs developed to treat bacterial infections only! On the other hand, viral infections (such as sore throats, common cold) fungal or algae infections do not respond to antibiotics. Facts only!
Antibiotics are sometimes also called antimicrobial drugs and are used to fight off infections caused by bacteria. As far back as 1927, a certain Mr. Alexander Fleming discovered the first antibiotic, penicillin. This was completely revolutionary and by the 1940s, this discovery of antibiotics had totally transformed medical care and dramatically reduced illness and death due to infectious diseases caused by bacteria. Eureka!
“Antibiotic” is a term which refers to a natural compound which is produced by a type of fungus that has the ability to kill disease causing bacteria in humans and animals. Today, with the help of technology, some antibiotics have been produced from synthetic compounds (not produced by microorganisms) and have been found to be effective in killing or inhibiting the growth of harmful microbes. Although antibiotics have been found to have many beneficial effects, their indiscriminate use has contributed to the problem of resistance.
Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in some way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of drugs, chemicals, or other agents designed to cure and/or prevent infections by this bacteria. This commonly occurs when we consistently use antibiotics when they are not required and sometimes we are left with some serious side effects. Researchers found out that even when we use antibiotics as prescribed by a physician, sensitive bacteria are killed but stronger germs may develop that resists the treatment. These then start growing and multiplying. Antibiotic resistance can occur in anyone, without discrimination as long as a particular bacterium becomes resistant to an antibiotic, it becomes difficult treating the infection and in many cases this may lead to the disease spreading very fast.
We must know that naturally, bacteria are single-celled organisms that can be found all over the inside and outside of our bodies (don’t forget that you actually need a microscope to see these wonderful organisms). Thankfully, these cannot be found in the blood and spinal fluid. It must be emphasized that many bacteria are not harmful, but rather beneficial. However, we still have a few disease-causing bacteria and these easily trigger illnesses, infections associated with Ear, Neck and Throat (ENT).
Viruses on the other hand, are even smaller than bacteria. It is a well-known fact that viruses cannot survive outside the body’s cells. Viruses cause illnesses by invading the body’s healthy cells and reproducing or replicating itself. Viral infections that should not be treated with antibiotics include: Colds, Flu, coughs, sore throats some ear infections, bronchitis
Here are a few tips on how to ensure our body systems do not develop resistance to antibiotics;
- Do not take an antibiotic for a viral infection like a cold or the flu. This is simply because viral infections will naturally run a full course and go away. In fact increasing your immunity. Use of antibiotics, is a No!
- Take an antibiotic exactly as the healthcare provider tells you. Do not stop taking your medicine even if you feel better, and do not save any antibiotics for future use. Do not save some of your unfinished antibiotic for the next time you get sick. Discard any leftover medication once you have completed your prescribed course of treatment.
- Do not take someone else’s antibiotics because different kinds of antibiotics treat different types of bacterial infections.
- Ask your healthcare professional about vaccines recommended for you and your family to prevent infections that may require an antibiotic.
- Never skip doses.
- Never pressure your healthcare professional to prescribe an antibiotic.
Antibiotic Resistance is a big deal!
A once easily treatable infection with antibiotics becoming resistant will surely cause significant danger and suffering for human who will now be infected by the new strains. When this happens, the common misconception will be that a person’s body has become resistant to specific antibiotic drugs. However, it is the microbes and not people that become resistant to the drugs. Making treatment difficult. So, yes, we should be worried that we could develop antibiotic resistance.
According to the CDC, antibiotic resistance has been called one of the world’s most pressing public health problems and this is a top concern. Almost every type of bacteria has become stronger and less responsive to conventional antibiotic treatment. You must remember that bacteria can be transmitted and having these antibiotic-resistant bacteria loose can quickly lead to its spread to family members, neighbours, schoolmates, and co-workers. Someone with an infection that is resistant to a certain medicine can pass that resistant infection to another person. In this way, a hard-to-treat illness can be spread from person to person. This ultimately leads to a threat to the community as a new strains of infectious disease that is more difficult to cure and more expensive to treat may have just being released. In some very severe cases, the illness can lead to serious disability or even death.
Becoming resistant to antibiotics – Survival instincts
I need to make it clear here however that the issues of resistance is most likely to occur if there is an abuse, improper use or a repeated use such as taking antibiotics without a prescription or taking it arbitrarily for just about any form of ailment we feel. A very important part of ensuring that we prevent the spread of bacterial infection in our community, and the home of course is to practice proper hygiene – simply do the basics; hand-washing, cleaning surfaces with disinfectants, washing shared items, wear clean clothing always
Research have shown that some bacteria can actually “neutralize” an antibiotic by changing it in a way that makes it harmless. Others have learned how to pump an antibiotic back outside of the bacteria before it can do any harm. Some have developed ability to change their outer structure so the antibiotic has no way to attach to the bacteria it is designed to kill. If after being exposed to antibiotics, and one of the bacteria survives because it found a way to resist the antibiotic, it can become resistant to antibiotics, it can then multiply and replace all the bacteria that were killed off. That means that exposure to antibiotics provides selective pressure making the surviving bacteria more likely to be resistant.
This article was developed by Madu Onyema drawing from the reference below:
Centre for Disease Control (2019) Antibiotic/Antimicrobial Resistance (AR/AMR) Available at https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/index.html Retrieved on July 19, 2019
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