What Do You Need to Know About Antibiotic Resistance?
Antibiotic resistance is a serious public health problem worldwide. Antibiotics are widely used drugs for the treatment of many infections in both adults and children. But what would happen if they were no longer effective?
Here, we’ll look at what antibiotic resistance is, what this problem has to do with us, and how we can act against it.
What are antibiotics and what do we use them for?
Antibiotics are drugs that we use for the treatment of bacterial infections. Therefore, they’re not useful in cases of viral or allergic conditions, nor in colds. To put it simply, we can say that antibiotics act through two main mechanisms of action:
- Destruction of bacteria: Bactericidal antibiotics.
- Interruption or impediment of their growth and reproduction: Bacteriostatic antibiotics.
What is antibiotic resistance?
Antibiotic resistance is the ability of bacteria to mutate to avoid the action of antibiotics against them. It’s a natural mechanism in these microorganisms. However, it’s speeding up and getting worse due to the misuse of antimicrobials, among other factors.
When a bacterium is attacked by an antibiotic, it has the natural tendency to seek strategies that allow it to survive. Therefore, they generate mutations and cause the drugs to cease to have an effect on them.
Antibiotic resistance means that many antibiotics are no longer effective. This leads to the complication of many serious infections that are prolonged over time. Doctors sometimes run out of substitute drugs to use and the severity of the conditions leaves many patients on the road to the hospital.
Some of the bacteria that cause the most resistance today are, for example, the following:
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus
- Enterobacteriaceae resistant to penicillins, cephalosporins, and carbapenems
- Streptococcus pneumoniae or pneumococcus resistant to penicillin and macrolides such as erythromycin
- Streptococcus pyogenes resistant to macrolides
- Haemophilus influenzae resistant to penicillins
- Bacteria resistant to fluoroquinolones
Antibiotic resistance is a crucial challenge also in pediatrics. Many bacterial infections occur during childhood and much of the use of antimicrobials also occurs at this stage.
How can we curb this problem?
Antibiotic resistance is an issue influenced by many different factors. As far as we’re concerned, in order to control the increase in resistance, it’s essential for doctors to prescribe these drugs appropriately, i.e. only in necessary cases and never when the origin of the condition is viral, among others.
Once the specialist has prescribed an antibiotic, it’s up to us to use it correctly. In a practical way, we can highlight some tips that we should follow in treatment with these drugs:
- Never self-medicate.
- Don’t buy antibiotics without a prescription.
- Avoid recommending these drugs to other people, even if we believe that they have the same symptoms as us.
- Follow the instructions of the specialist who prescribes the drug with respect to dosage.
- Complete the therapy during the indicated days, even if the symptoms disappear earlier.
- Don’t keep leftover medication at home for future treatment. Rather, consult with your local pharmacist regarding how to dispose of leftover drugs.
Furthermore, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends prevention as another way to get involved in the battle agains antibiotic resistance. Hygienic measures such as simple hand washing can prevent many more infections than we imagine. As these are reduced, so is the need for antibiotics. Other measures include food hygiene or vaccination.
Antibiotic resistance is everyone’s problem
As we’ve said, antibiotic resistance is a major public health problem that concerns us all. For our part, we should try to use these drugs correctly, always following the doctor’s instructions. It’s important not to self-medicate or make changes in the dosage of treatment without consulting a specialist.
Antibiotics save lives every day by treating many serious infections in both adults and children. Let’s do everything within our power not to allow them to cease to be effective. We must all contribute to the rational use of medicines.