What is Antibiotic Resistance?

Published on: 16/11/2021

As the problem of antibiotic resistance is spreading around the world, it makes the treatment of certain diseases more difficult. Find out why this is a concern for you, and what you can do to protect yourself.

Recently, antibiotic resistance has been identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the biggest threats to our food security, development, and global health. It has been spreading all over the world, making it increasingly difficult to treat diseases such as meningitis and pneumonia. 

Why is Antibiotic Resistance a Threat

If you’re wondering why this is a concern, imagine this scenario: Let’s suppose you develop an infection —  this could be anything from a simple urinary tract infection to tuberculosis. If you have antibiotic resistance, you may require stronger and more expensive medications. Alternatively, you may need to take these drugs for a longer period of time. You may also take longer to recover or develop other health problems. In some cases, doctors might even be powerless to help you.

How Antibiotics Work

Antibiotics revolutionized medicine in the twentieth century. Today, they're commonly prescribed to treat bacterial infections. In the United States alone, these antibiotic prescriptions reach more than 150 million each year. 

Antibiotics combat bacterial infections by either killing or delaying the growth of these bacteria. They accomplish this by either attacking the wall (or the coating) that surrounds the bacteria, causing an interference with their reproduction process or preventing the bacteria from producing protein. 

However, bacteria have been adapting to these medications and becoming more difficult to kill. This is what we call antibiotic resistance. Nowadays, numerous infections – including pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, blood poisoning, and even foodborne diseases – are becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to treat as antibiotics become less effective.

Clearly, antibiotic resistance is jeopardizing modern medicine's achievements. Without efficient antibiotics for infection prevention and treatment, chemotherapy,  organ transplantation, and procedures such as cesarean sections become significantly riskier.

What You Can Do

Antibiotic resistance is magnified by antibiotic misuse and overuse, as well as inadequate infection prevention and control. As the WHO is taking the concern of antibiotic resistance seriously, they have already created a worldwide action plan that strives to guarantee that infectious diseases are prevented and treated with safe and effective medications. 

Nonetheless, we should also do our part in the fight against antibiotic resistance by taking note of the following:

  • Take antibiotics only when you need them - Antibiotics should only be used if absolutely necessary. WHO further advises us to use antibiotics only when prescribed by a certified health professional. Keep in mind also, that antibiotics won't help with viral illnesses including common colds, bronchitis, and many ear and sinus infections.
  • Finish your medications - Follow your doctor's instructions to the letter. Even if you start to feel better, keep taking the entire prescription. If you quit before the infection is totally eradicated, those bacteria are more likely to develop drug resistance.
  • Get vaccinated - While some diseases are treated with antibiotics, vaccines can protect you from these infections in the first place. Tetanus and whooping cough are two of these diseases.
  • Take extra precautions when you are in a hospital - Bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics are commonly found in hospitals. Make sure to follow the proper safety and sanitation protocols and take the necessary steps to keep any surgical wounds free of infection.

Ultimately, antibiotic resistance has the potential to affect individuals at any stage of life. It can also bring devastating consequences to our healthcare, veterinary, and agricultural industries — making it one of the world's most pressing public health issues. By doing our part in the prevention of antibiotic resistance, we are reducing the risks for ourselves and our society in general.