Have you ever wondered why on some occasions, the medication you took to deal with an illness doesn’t work? Well, developments not too long ago have revealed that harmful bacteria are fast adapting to antibiotics, hence making them less effective. A pointer to this is the recent report from the World Health Organisation that in some countries, the gonorrhea bacteria have become “untreatable by all known medications” due to antibiotic resistance.
Before we discuss why bacteria are becoming resistant, we would like to explain what an antibiotic is. Antibiotics are drugs that fight infections created by bacteria in people. They either kill the bacteria or make it impossible for it to replicate itself in the body. However, there’s a common misconception that antibiotics can be used to treat anything. This is wrong; they work against bacteria so viruses like the ones that cause common cold will not be affected by an antibiotic.
What is antibiotic resistance?
Put simply, it is the ability of bacteria to adapt or evolve by changing itself in a way that reduces the effectiveness of drugs used to treat it. Currently, antibiotic resistance is one of the world’s most pressing health problems because some illnesses are now more difficult to treat. People don’t recover as quickly as they should and spend more time and money being treated.
Antibiotic resistance prolongs illnesses and suffering of patients and in some cases, can spread the disease to loved ones.
When some people think that their medicines have become less effective because they have become ‘used’ to the drugs, they’re usually wrong. It is the drugs that have become ineffective due to the bacteria adapting to them.
How does antibiotic resistance happen?
A key factor for this is the overuse and misuse of antibiotics. Every time you use an antibiotic, sensitive bacteria are killed but some might be left to grow and multiply. As a result, continuous use of antibiotics only ends up increasing the number of drug-resistant bacteria. In addition, not all bacteria are harmful as some protect your body from infection. Unfortunately, antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria, thus leaving you even more vulnerable.
When people misuse antibiotics by taking them to cure viral infections like cold, flu, sore throat, etc., there is a likelihood that bacteria will become resistant.
How to prevent antibiotic resistance:
Yes, it’s not a totally gloomy picture; when antibiotics are used smartly, it is less likely that harmful bacteria will become resistant. These tips can help:
Consult a healthcare professional when you’re ill as this reduces the chances of you using the wrong medicines. Get a proper prescription and use the drugs according to the exact instructions of your doctor. This will also help you avoid using an antibiotic for a viral infection like cold, sore throat or flu. Click here to learn more
Is there a way for you to get better without using an antibiotic? There probably is. Ask your doctor if there are other steps you can take to recover from an illness.
Don’t skip doses:
There is a tendency for most people to stop using medication when they begin to feel better. However, there is a reason behind every dosage because factors like the bacteria’s life span have already been considered. Stop treatment not because you feel better, but because you have finished your dosage.
Refuse the urge to pop:
We all seem to know someone who reaches for any pack of tablets nearby – doesn’t matter if they’re ill or not. Drug overuse and abuse are key factors behind antibiotic resistance so do not take antibiotics prescribed for someone else.
Sometimes, the key to staying healthy isn’t just about what we use to get better but how we use them. Using antibiotics more responsibly plays a part in preventing bacterial resistance to it.