Antibiotics — this class of drugs have been hailed as our saviour ever since Alexander Fleming discovered that penicillin could kill bacteria. Today, we have several classes of antibiotics, natural or man-made that work on many types of bacteria. There are penicillins, β lactams, quinolones, cephalosporins and so on, and they are used to treat all sorts of bacterial diseases, from minor infections to pneumonia and meningitis.
Life without antibiotics cannot be imagined. However, antibiotics are now facing their own bane — antibiotic resistance in microbes.
Antibiotic resistance in bacteria
Bacteria have started becoming resistant to the different antibiotics that worked against them.
Let’s imagine this scenario, you start taking a specific antibiotic, when you’ve got a bacterial lung infection. You feel better after a few days and then forget the last few doses. However, its all right and you appear to be healthy again. A few months later you get the same infection again and so you take the same antibiotic. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this time.
The bacteria have become resistant or immune to the antibiotic. Your doctor now has to prescribe another antibiotic that might work against the same bacteria. The bacteria that remain and cause the infection to occur again are stronger, therefore, resistant to the antibiotic. The resistant bacteria can spread and affect more people that need to take the new antibiotic dosage to get cured. It gets more difficult to treat the illnesses caused by bacteria as they start getting resistant to more antibiotics.
Why is it important?
Antibiotic resistance is a dangerous issue and it’s rapidly escalating. Most bacteria, at present, have started to gain resistance against commonly-used antibiotics. Some, like Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are resistant to many types of antibiotics. The rate of Staphylococcus aureus becoming resistant (MRSA) range from 0% in some areas in India to 100% in others. One of the ways to subdue such microbes is by using different combinations of antibiotics, although in moderation, so that the bacteria don’t become resistant to them too. Research shows that resistance is increasing in India, among pathogenic bacteria causing serious infectious diseases like pneumonia, bacteremia, UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections), among others.
So what do we, as the public, do to minimize this serious problem?
- Just make sure to take all doses of any antibiotic prescribed, at the necessary times.
- Never skip doses
- Never take any antibiotic without the doctors orders.
- Take all doses prescribed.
- The doctor will only prescribe antibiotics when it is needed, because overuse of antibiotics also aids in resistance. In a study, 29% of doctors indicated that they prescribed antibiotics in response to patient demands. It is important that the doctor’s advice be accepted and the strength of the antibiotic and number of doses that is prescribed (if so) be strictly followed.
Such simple measures can help reduce the potency and speed with which resistance spreads. With time though, new antibiotics and novel methods of medication might emerge to tackle resistance in microorganisms.