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Effects of Antibiotics

With a life-threatening infection such as meningococcal septicaemia, antibiotics are crucial. However, taking them when they are not genuinely needed – as many people do – may do more harm than good to one’s health, even when the bacteria is not antibiotic-resistant. This is because antibiotics not only kill the bacteria causing the illness, but they also kill the harmless and even helpful bacteria. Helpful bacteria – such as the lactobacillus species – are an integral part of the body’s natural defence system, and therefore to eradicate them may delay the recovery process, or cause other ailments in the body.

With this in mind, taking antibiotics when infected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria could be much more costly, because the resistant bacteria would not only survive, but they would be given a greater opportunity to take a hold, without the good bacteria being present to fight off the infection. Therefore, it is better to take nothing than to take a course of ineffective antibiotics.

As resistant bacteria can be spread from person to person, one individual’s vigilance in the use of antibiotics may be rendered pointless by another’s lack of it. In other words, even if you never take a course of antibiotics, you may still pick up antibiotic-resistant bacteria from others in your community who have indiscriminately used them. This is why more restrictions must be placed upon suppliers and prescribers of antibiotics rather than the individual. Further, the economic impact of antibiotic resistance is not going unnoticed. In-hospital treatment costs are estimated to increase by billions of dollars worldwide as a result.

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