Tag Archives: antimicrobal resistance

Antibiotic Resistance – No More Drugs For A Cold!

Have you ever been annoyed when you walked into a doctor’s office expecting a prescription for the terrible cold that has been plaguing you for over a week, only to be denied? Well like it or not, your doctor was absolutely right to deny you antibiotics for your 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 Antibiotic and Antimicrobial Resistance?

Bacteria and other microbes such as 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 or even helpful. The problem with antibiotic treatments is that they annihilate not only the troublesome bacteria in your system, but the beneficial bacteria as well. There are always a few bacteria left behind that don’t get killed by the drugs which then multiply and spread through our environment from the resistant person to others, contaminated surface to person, or meat-product to person which creates widespread resistance to said bacteria.

How Do Prescriptions Contribute to Resistance?

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 the drugs ineffective for various infections (such as MRSA). 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, causing almost 23 000 annual fatalities.

Why Do Doctors Overprescribe  Antibiotics?

Some doctors give antibiotics for viral infections by mistake, but others cave under the pressure of their patients demanding prescriptions for colds because they don’t want to leave empty handed. Years ago many doctors thought antibiotics were harmless enough placations 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 full well that the dangers of unnecessary antibiotics include not only promotion of resistant bacteria, but also potential adverse side effects such as a vulnerability to C. Difficile, a resistant intestinal infection that can cause fatal diarrhea. Luckily, most doctors see the bigger picture and are beginning to be more discerning with antibiotics.

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. The use of antibiotics in food animals is the primary cause of resistance to certain germs such as salmonella in humans, therefor 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 individually and as a society:

  • 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 meat products and 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