Antibiotics, also known as antimicrobial drugs, are drugs that fight
infections caused by bacteria in both humans and animals. Antibiotics fight
these infections either by killing the bacteria or making it difficult for the bacteria to grow and multiply. Antibiotics do not have any effect on viruses.
What is antibiotic resistance?
Antibiotic resistance occurs when an antibiotic has lost its ability to effectively control or kill bacterial growth; in other words, the bacteria are "resistant" and continue to multiply in the presence of therapeutic levels of an antibiotic.
Why should I care about antibiotic resistance?
Antibiotic resistance has been called one of the world's most pressing public health problems. Antibiotic resistance can cause illnesses that were once easily treatable with antibiotics to become dangerous infections, prolonging suffering for children and adults. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can spread to family members, schoolmates, and co-workers, and may threaten your community. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are often more difficult to kill and more expensive to treat. In some cases, the antibiotic-resistant infections can lead to serious disability or even death.
Although some people think a person becomes resistant to specific drugs, it is the bacteria, not the person, that become resistant to the drugs.
Antibiotic resistance is rising to dangerously high levels in all parts of the world. New resistance mechanisms are emerging and spreading globally, threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases. A growing list of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning and gonorrhoea – are becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat as antibiotics become less effective.
Where antibiotics can be bought for human or animal use without a prescription, the emergence and spread of resistance is made worse. Similarly, in countries without standard treatment guidelines, antibiotics are often over-prescribed by health workers and veterinarians and over-used by the public. Without urgent action, we are heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.
Some bacteria are naturally resistant to certain types of antibiotics. However, bacteria may also become resistant in two ways: 1) by a genetic mutation or 2) by acquiring resistance from another bacterium
The Resistance mechanism
1. Impermeable barrier: the bacterial cell membrane develops an impermeable barrier which blocks antibiotics.
2. Target modification: modification of components of the bacteria which are targeted by the antibiotic, meaning the antibiotic can no longer bind properly to its target in order to destroy the bacteria.
3. Antibiotic modification: the cell produces substances (usually a protein called an “enzyme”) that inactivate the antibiotic before it can harm the bacteria.
4. Efflux pump mechanism: the antibiotic is actively pumped out of the bacteria so that it cannot harm the bacteria.
How should I use antibiotics to protect myself and my community from antibiotic resistance?
· Tell your healthcare professional you are concerned about antibiotic resistance.
· Ask your healthcare professional if there are steps you can take to feel better and get symptomatic relief without using antibiotics.
· Take the prescribed antibiotic exactly as your healthcare professional tells you.
· Discard any leftover medication
· Ask your healthcare professional about vaccines recommended for you and your family to prevent infections that may require an antibiotic.
· Never skip doses or stop taking an antibiotic early unless your healthcare professional tells you to do so.
· Never take an antibiotic for a viral infection like a cold or the flu.
· Never pressure your healthcare professional to prescribe an antibiotic.
· Never save antibiotics for the next time you get sick.
· Never take antibiotics prescribed for someone else.
· Prevent infections by ensuring your hands, instruments, and environment are clean.
· Only prescribe and dispense antibiotics when they are needed, according to current guidelines.
· Report antibiotic-resistant infections to surveillance teams.
· Talk to your patients about how to take antibiotics correctly, antibiotic resistance and the dangers of misuse.
· Talk to your patients about preventing infections (for example, vaccination, hand washing, safer sex, and covering nose and mouth when sneezing).
- Prescribing an antibiotic that targets the bacteria that is most likely causing their patient’s illness when an antibiotic is likely to provide benefit.