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Biomedical Research

What is Antibiotic Resistance?

In the age of modern medicine, antibiotics are prescribed regularly. Antibiotics are helpful in preventing harmful conditions and have reduced fatalities by a large number. Unfortunately, a new problem known as antibiotic resistance is emerging as bacteria becomes resistant to antibiotics. Why is antibiotic resistance growing, and how can it be stopped?

By Harshal Chinthala

Published 8:45 PM EST, Thurs April 15, 2021

Introduction

In the case of a bacterial infection, it is customary to look for antibiotics for treatment. They can prevent harmful conditions from developing and also often prevent fatalities. Unfortunately, what is known as antibiotic resistance is becoming more of a problem within this common treatment practice. Antibiotic resistance involves evolving bacteria gaining the ability to resist the effects of antibiotics, resulting in bacteria/fungi fighting back against the drugs meant to expel them. In other words, the bacteria becomes “resistant” to antibiotics and therefore continue to multiply. Antibiotic-resistant infections are difficult, if not impossible, to treat. In most cases, they necessitate prolonged hospital stays, extra follow-up medical appointments, and expensive and toxic treatment options. 

About Antibiotic Resistance

To understand more about antibiotic resistance, it must be understood how antibiotics work. One of the first antibiotics produced was Penicillin, which was released in the year 1941. Penicillin works by blocking the protein struts that link peptidoglycans (a structure in bacterial cells). The bacterium is unable to close the openings in its cell walls as a result of this. In 1942, scientists identified the Penicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Shortly after in 1967, another penicillin resistant germ known as Streptococcus pneumoniae was identified, and in 1967, Penicillinase-producing Neisseria gonorrhoeae was as well. The bacteria that survived the penicillin grew resistant, meaning that penicillin will not work on that type of bacteria. Soon the penicillin resistant bacteria may become more common which is a huge problem as it results in penicillin being unable to work. This is a clear example of bacteria adapting and looking for ways to survive; and just like any other organism, they often find solutions in dire situations. Some diseases are becoming difficult to treat due to antibiotic resistance such as Pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning, and foodborne illnesses. 

Since the introduction of antibiotics, the number of emerging ones has only increased. This is because as new antibiotics emerge, antibiotic resistance also develops. Antibiotic resistance is increasing at an alarming rate around the world. The most serious problem is that widely used antibiotics may become less effective in treating common infections.  That means doctors would have to resort to more potent and often less friendly antibiotics, or risk running out of options. In some cases, the number of bacteria resistant to a variety of antibiotics has grown nearly ten times. Even newly approved drugs are encountering resistance, albeit in small quantities, so it is crucial to be cautious in how we use them. Any type of drug risks being ineffective if used for long periods of time. From reports by the CDC, nearly 2 million people in the United States contracted an infection while in the hospital each year, resulting in 90,000 deaths. In addition, it is presumed that at least one of the antibiotics usually used to treat these infections is resistant to more than 70% of the bacteria that cause them.   

There are ways to prevent antibiotic resistance. At all levels of society, actions can be taken to prevent antibiotic resistance from becoming an even larger issue. Public policy makers can make plans to tackle these problems: infection prevention programs, new policies, and implementation of these methods. Another thing they can do is regulate the quality of certain drugs used for medication. Health professionals must also do their part as well. Doctors can ensure that antibiotics are prescribed when only absolutely necessary, according to existing guidelines. Additionally, they can report antibiotic-resistant diseases to monitoring teams as soon as possible. Finally, steps can be taken at the individual level as well. These include listening to doctors instructions when taking antibiotics, only using antibiotics if prescribed by a professional, and not demanding for antibiotics if they are not needed. 

Conclusion

There are already some measures being taken by organizations like the World Health Organization. New research is being done on how pathogens are able to gain antibiotic resistance in the first place. In May 2015, the World Health Assembly adopted a worldwide action plan on antimicrobial resistance, known as the Public Health Action Plan to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance which includes antibiotic resistance. The aim of the global action plan is to use safe and effective drugs to prevent and treat infectious diseases, therefore decreasing the chance of antibiotic resistance. The tasks outlined in the plan are still being carried out by task force organizations. The plan’s success, known as the Public Health Action Plan to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance, relies on support from various institutions including state and local health departments, colleges, professional societies, pharmaceutical companies, health care providers, agricultural producers, and the general public. In summary, antibiotic resistance is a huge threat to modern medicine that will continue to worsen. However, if everyone does their part, progress can be made to reach promising solutions. 

Harshal Chinthala, Youth Medical Journal 2021

References

Antibiotic resistance. (2020, July 31). https://Www.Who.Int/News-Room/Fact-Sheets/Detail/Antibiotic-Resistance. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/antibiotic-resistance

What Exactly is Antibiotic Resistance? (2020, March 13). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/about.html#:%7E:text=Antibiotic%20resistance%20happens%20when%20germs,killed%20and%20continue%20to%20grow.Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. (2016, May 4). Battle of the Bugs: Fighting Antibiotic Resistance. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/information-consumers-and-patients-drugs/battle-bugs-fighting-antibiotic-resistance

By Harshal Chinthala

Harshal Chinthala is student in Kansas City. He is interested in the fields of neurology and cardiology.

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