Despite scientists finding a solution to tackle bacteria, some bacteria have learned to be immune to antibiotics. Bacteria are tiny, single-celled living organisms. There are millions of various types of bacteria.
Most of them, which make up your microbiome, live in and on your body and keep it healthy. However, other bacteria, or pathogens (microorganisms that can cause disease), can make you ill. They can multiply quickly in your body and release poisons (toxins) that can cause infection.
What Are Antibiotics?
Antibiotics are potent medications that treat specific infections and can save lives when used appropriately by stopping bacteria from reproducing or killing them.
Before bacteria can reproduce and cause symptoms, the immune system has the power to kill them. White blood cells (WBCs) fight harmful bacteria—even with symptoms, the immune system often copes and repels the infection.
Unfortunately, sometimes harmful bacteria increase in number, rendering the immune system powerless. This is where antibiotics come to the rescue.
Penicillin was the first antibiotic. Penicillin-based antibiotics, like ampicillin, amoxicillin, and penicillin G, can still treat several infections and have been influential.
Different types of modern antibiotics are available with a prescription in the United States. You can get topical antibiotics in over-the-counter (OTC) creams and ointments.
Note that antibiotics cannot kill viruses like the common cold or influenza; drugs that stop the growth of viruses are known as antiviral drugs or antivirals rather than antibiotics. They cannot also kill fungi; drugs that prevent the development of fungi are known as antifungal drugs.
What Is Antibiotic Resistance?
Antibiotic resistance refers to how bacteria change so antibiotic medicines cannot harm them, making it very hard to treat bacterial infections. Antibiotic resistance is a kind of antimicrobial resistance.
Note that bacteria are responsible for antibiotic resistance, not your body. Fungi, parasites, and viruses can also be resistant to a drug meant to harm them.
Factors That Can Cause Antibiotic Resistance
Many factors can make bacteria resist antibiotics, and they include the following:
- Overusing antibiotics: Taking excessive antibiotics when they are unnecessary can lead to antibiotic resistance. For example, most cases of pharyngitis (sore throat) are viral. Antibiotics are ineffective. Even bacterial ear infections don’t need antibiotics to heal themselves.
- Misusing antibiotics: Bacteria cease any opportunity to multiply. If you skip medicine for a day (or several days), quickly stop treatment, or use the wrong antibiotics (like taking someone else’s medication), bacteria will reproduce. As they multiply, mutations can occur and boost their resistance to a medicine.
- Agricultural use: Bacteria in animals can also be antibiotic-resistant. Approximately 80% of antibiotics in the United States are for livestock.
- Spontaneous resistance: At times, the genetic makeup (DNA) of a bacterium independently changes or mutates. The antibiotic isn’t aware of this newly evolved bacterium and can’t target it correctly. Or the change empowers the bacteria to weaken the medicine’s effects.
- Transmitted resistance: You can pass a contagious drug-resistant bacterial infection to someone else. That person now has a condition that won’t respond to an antibiotic. Again, we can usually find a treatment, but time has passed, and the now-resistant bacteria may be harder to treat.
Treatment For Antibiotic Resistance
There are different treatments for these infections. Your healthcare provider may offer another antibiotic to kill the infection. However, it might have specific downsides.
There may be more side effects or an increased risk of resistance. In a few scenarios, your provider might be left with no option. In this case, supportive care is required.
How To Prevent Antibiotic Resistance?
These tips may reduce your risk of developing antibiotic resistance:
- Ensure you don’t take someone else’s antibiotics that aren’t prescribed for you.
- Obey your healthcare provider’s advice on treating your symptoms without antibiotics. Don’t make your provider give you an unnecessary prescription.
- Set a reminder on your phone to avoid missing a dose. If you forget to take your medicine, ask your provider for the next step.
- Please don’t stop taking the medicine as prescribed, even after feeling better. If you quickly stop an antibiotic, bacteria can start reproducing again and become resistant.
- Regularly wash your hands because good hygiene reduces your bacterial infection risk.
Despite the effectiveness of antibiotics in killing bacteria, these bacteria can adapt to become immune to them due to many factors. Therefore, one should consult a healthcare provider’s advice and take note of preventive measures and treatments.