Antibiotic Resistance

What is it?

Antibiotic resistance is a major public health problem throughout the world. It occurs when bacteria develop the capability to resist the effects of antibiotic. Because of this phenomenon, illnesses and infections that were at one point easily treatable can become extremely dangerous, causing disability or even death. Infections from antibiotic resistant bacteria are more expensive to treat because the bacteria are more difficult to kill.

Who does it affect?

Antibiotic resistance affects everyone! Many people believe that it’s the individual that develops a resistance to an antibiotic. Rather, it’s the bacteria that become resistant.   These resistant bacteria have the ability to multiply and spread from person to person throughout communities, causing a widespread threat.

How does it happen?

Overuse and misuse of antibiotics leads to development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. When taking antibiotics, the normal bacteria are killed, while the resistant bacteria are left to grow and multiply. Bacteria can develop resistance in a number of ways. They can “neutralize” bacteria, or alter it in a way that renders it ineffective. Some pump the antibiotic outside of the bacteria before it can have any effect. Some bacteria change their structure so that the antibiotic can no longer bind. Others alter their genetic material to resist the antibiotics.

How can you help prevent antibiotic resistance?

  1. Don’t take an antibiotic for a viral infection like a cold or the flu.
    • Antibiotics kill bacteria, but they have no effect on viruses. Using antibiotics for viral infections like a cold or the flu contributes to antibiotic resistance. In fact, most sore throats and sinus infections are viral as well. Antibiotics won’t help you feel any better!
  1. Don’t stop the prescribed course of antibiotic treatment even if you’re feeling better.
    • Though you may be feeling better, some bacteria may remain in your system. These can then multiply and re-infect you. You will then require more antibiotics, increasing the likelihood of developing resistance.
  1. Don’t take antibiotics meant for someone else.
    • The dose of this antibiotic could be dangerous for you. It could interact with other medications. In addition, it could be the incorrect antibiotic for your diagnosis assuming that your infection even requires an antibiotic. A healthcare provider should always oversee medication usage.

Sources: CDC, WHO