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Antibiotic Resistance, Causes of Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotics are medicinal products that are used to kill or stop the growth of living bacteria in the body. Antibiotics have been very helpful since discovery. They help to save and prolong lives as they help fight bacterial infections. Antibiotic resistance is now a growing health challenge because certain bacteria can no longer be controlled with the usual antibiotics.

Some bacteria have now developed stronger chemical components that make them to become more powerful against antibiotics action. This simply means such antibiotics that would normally kill or stop their growth in the body can no longer work on them. Such bacteria are now able to resist the antibiotics.

This is a serious threat to human health. A report published by Express news on March 7th 2017 revealed that at least 12,000 people now die from antibiotic-resistant super-bugs each year, –Link to the report.

Causes of Antibiotic Resistance

We can halt antibiotic resistance but we need to understand that misuse of these antibiotics is a major cause of antibiotic resistance.

antibiotic resistance

(Health Service Executive)

Misuse of antibiotics is:

  •  Inadequate use of antibiotics. This means a person is either not taking antibiotic in the right dose or failing to complete the duration of the treatment. When a course of antibiotic treatment is not completed or antibiotic not taken according to manufacturer’s direction for use in term of dosage, some of the bacteria will survive and become resistant to the antibiotic which means such antibiotic will become ineffective against the bacteria and they could reinfect their victim.
  • Use of antibiotics for viral infections, against which they have no effect. Antibiotics do not normally treat infections cause by virus. This is why colds, flu, some cough, sore throat caused by virus cannot be treated with antibiotics no matter the dose you take.
  •  Too frequent prescription of “broad-spectrum antibiotics”, instead of carrying out a more precise diagnosis to aid a better targeted antibiotic treatment.

Antibiotics in Action (left) and Antibiotic Resistance (right)

Antibiotic resistance

(Credit: Treccani)

Let us use what happened in the plate (petri dish) above to imagine the interactions between antibiotic and bacteria in our body during an infection.

In the centre of each plate in the picture above is an antibiotic (white discs). The plate on the left shows a clear zone of inhibition around the antibiotic. In this case, the bacteria growing on the plate is not able to grow around the antibiotic. In reality, when one takes an antibiotic, the antibiotic work in a process similar to that. So, the growth of the bacteria is halt by the presence of the antibiotic in the body system. It’s either they die or remain too small in number to overwhelm the immune system of the infected person.

The plate on the right side shows bacteria growth around the antibiotic. Note that there is no significant zone of inhibition. This simply means that the antibiotic is ineffective against the bacteria. In reality, when bacteria become resistant to an antibiotic, the same thing happens and so with the presence of that antibiotic in the body, they can still multiply and continue to increase in number.

Antibiotic resistance

(Credit: Start holistic)

How to Stop Antibiotic Resistance

  • Take antibiotics only when prescribed by your doctor.
  • Complete your treatment every time you are prescribed one. Never stop any prescription half way.
  • Do not share antibiotics prescribed for you with anybody, be it family, friends or colleagues.
  • Avoid treating infections or sickness caused by virus with antibiotics. This is why diagnosis is needed to aid precise treatment.
  • Avoid taking any antibiotics prescribed for another person.
  • Never store antibiotics outside recommended places and do not save for next time you get sick.

Enjoy this video on safe use of medicines (Credit: The Joint Commission).

Antibiotic Resistance, Causes of Antibiotic Resistance
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Antibiotic Resistance, Causes of Antibiotic Resistance
Antibiotic resistance on the rise. What are the causes and how can we minimise the chance of bacteria resisting the antibiotic activities to help prevent another public health challenges that this resistance could bring upon human populations.
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