Have you ever been upset with your doctor for not prescribing antibiotics for the terrible cold that was plaguing you for a week? Well like it or not, your doctor was absolutely right to deny you antibiotics for your viral cold. Antibiotics do nothing to help common cold viruses and should be reserved only for bacterial infections. Overprescribing medications is one of the leading causes of antibacterial and antimicrobial resistance.
What is Antimicrobial Resistance?
Bacteria and other microbes
like fungi and viruses exist everywhere and are constantly multiplying. They live on our skin, inside our bodies and all over our surroundings, but many of them are harmless and even helpful. The problem with antibiotic treatments is that they kill not only harmful bacteria in your system, but beneficial bacteria as well. There are always a few resistant bacteria left behind that don’t get killed by the drugs which then multiply and spread through our environment from person to person, surface to person or meat-product to person, creating widespread resistance to certain bacteria.
No More Prescriptions for the Cold!
Doctors worldwide have been aggressively prescribing antibiotics since the 1940’s. Because of such prolonged and widespread use, certain bacteria have become resistant to almost all strains of antibiotics, rendering drugs ineffective for these infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) over 50% of the antibiotics being prescribed are either not necessary, prescribed at too high a dosage, or for too long of a duration. Because of this, over 2,000,000 people contract antibiotic-resistant infections each year such as C. Difficile
for example, an intestinal infection that can be fatal. These infections cause almost 23,000 annual fatalities. Luckily, most doctors see the bigger picture and are beginning to be more discerning with antibiotics.
Why Are Doctors Overprescribing?
Some doctors give antibiotics by mistake, but others cave under the pressure of patients demanding a prescription because they don’t want to leave empty handed. Years ago doctors thought antibiotics to be a harmless placation for patients’ cold complaints, but unfortunately this mollification has only led to more people contracting antibiotic resistant infections. It is irresponsible for today’s doctors to give into this pressure, as they know unnecessary antibiotics contribute to antimicrobial resistance and may also cause adverse side effects.
The Role of Food Animals and Resistance
Another big contributing factor to antibiotic resistance is the use of antibiotics in food-animals for curing infections contracted from poor slaughterhouse conditions. It is integral that antibiotics are only used to treat infections in animals when absolutely necessary, and are never used for growth or disease prevention purposes.
How Can We Combat Antibiotic Resistance?
As long as there are antibiotics, bacteria will find a way to become resistant but there are some measures we can take as a society to slow the process:
- Only use antibiotics when absolutely necessary, always check what type of infection you have before cashing in your prescription
- Prevent infection by washing your hands thoroughly and often
- Carefully handling and cooking meat products
- Getting necessary immunizations
- The implementation of antibiotic stewardship in hospitals and clinics – appropriate use of antibiotics (only when absolutely necessary)
- Promoting and spreading public awareness about antimicrobial resistance
- Medical scientists must keep working to create new antibiotics as old ones become resistant
Well that concludes our look at antimicrobial resistance, thanks for visiting EMC! Check back in the future for our wellness and health-related posts!