Since their discovery, antibiotics have proved to be extremely successful in curing disease and illnesses. Those illnesses and diseases that were fatal are now easily treatable. However, the alarm has been raised over the potential overuse of antibiotics in people and food animals, which has led to the evolution of drug resistant bacteria.
What is drug resistant bacteria?
Well antimicrobial resistance occurs when a microbe evolves to become more or fully resistant to antimicrobials which previously could treat it. Resistance arises through one of three ways. Natural resistance in certain type of bacteria; genetic mutation; or by one species acquiring resistance from another. Resistant microbes are increasingly difficult to treat, requiring alternative medications or higher doses which can be more costly and more toxic.
We need to be more aware of drug-resistant infections both as a world and as a country. Did you know that in last two years a million people have died from such infections? Did you know that by 2050, ten million people will die every year?
The problem of drug-resistant microbes isn’t just between biology and chemistry but between the world. It’s an economic problem, a catastrophic mismatch between supply and demand. Statistically its quite scary to think that if antibiotics continue to lose their sting, infections that are resistant will take $100 trillion from the worlds economy between now and 2050. This is equivalent to $10,000 for every person that is alive today.
Jim O’Neill has spent the last two years looking into the current problem of drug-resistant infections and has come up with 10 steps to avert the current crisis. O’Neill’s report can be found here.
I guess the big question is, how can we help prevent more antibiotic resistance?
- Wash the right way — it’s not clear that antibacterial handwash is more effective than hot water and soap with concerns that the triclosan could become resistant. Therefore if you can, use hot water and soap to wash your hands.
- Buy organic — The antibiotics in the feed of some nonorganic farm animals may be contributing to the epidemic of antibiotic resistance.
- Only use antibiotics if you need too — According to Louis Rice, MD, an expert on resistant bugs and chief of medical service at Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Centre, we could cut antibiotic use by 70% if only we used them when necessary. Most infections will go away on their own.
- Ask for the shortest course of antibiotics — When doctors studied treatments for urinary-tract infections, they found that 87% cleared up with a single dose of antibiotics and 94% were cured with a three-day course.
- Speak out — Be aware of antibiotic resistance.
Five ways which may help us prevent antibiotics becoming more resistant. I never knew it was such a problem that we face both now and in the future.