Antibiotics and the Increase in Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria
Antibiotics Use in the Medical Industry
When Penicillin – the first antibiotic – was introduced into society in the 1940’s, it was hailed as a medical miracle. Its use by the Allied forces in World War 2 may have contributed to their eventual victory. For years it appeared that antibiotics would banish all infectious diseases forever. Yet now – just sixty years later – the medical miracle has come up against some severe problems. People in the health industry are warning that the unnecessary overuse of antibiotics is causing the spread of diseases that are more difficult – and sometimes impossible – to treat. This is because bacteria, with more and more exposure to antibiotics, are given more opportunity to become resistant to them. Even old bacterial ailments that were formerly easily treated are now less responsive to antibiotics.
The huge increase in travel in recent times means that the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria cannot be confined to any specific part of the world. In the Third World, bacterial resistance to drugs is greatly heightening the death toll from infections such as malaria, cholera, tuberculosis and dysentery – infections that are already rampant due to poor sanitation and medical care. The developed world is also witnessing a frightening increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, ranging from relatively harmless acne-causing bacteria to deadly golden staph strains.
It is particularly alarming that the overuse and misuse of antibiotics is stimulating the resistance capability of some bacteria to such a degree that they are becoming resilient to many or all classes of antibiotics, and are therefore incurable. The most publicised of these ‘super bugs’ have been the strains of drug-resistant tuberculosis, meningitis and staphylococcus infections that have caused widespread panic among health officials.
Thus bacteria breed new strains to overcome the effects of antibiotics and more bacteria are now immune to antibiotics.
What you can do
First and foremost, do not take antibiotics unless you are sure that you have a bacterial infection; and even then, only if there are secondary infections, or if you are in the ‘high risk’ category (i.e. elderly or immune deficient).
You should not take antibiotics if you have a viral infection. Make sure that your GP makes a diagnosis and prescribes the correct antibiotic for you. If the GP knows the type of bacteria causing the problem he or she can choose an antibiotic that targets the bacteria rather than rely on ‘broad spectrum’ antibiotics.
If you do have to take antibiotics, take the full course, even if you are feeling better long before the last pill. The bacteria may still be present in your body. Do not save the antibiotics to treat yourself or others later, because this contributes to bacterial resistance.
There are other natural alternatives for when you have a viral infection, such as a cold, cough or influenza. Some of these are:
Additionally, you can write a letter or email your local government, and let him/her know that you are concerned with the use of antibiotics in the community. Recommend that action be taken to put checks and balances in place for prescribers and distributors of antibiotics. Select your country in the drop down menu at the top of this page to lobby.