Antibiotic resistance is not often discussed in the media so many people don’t realize that it is a huge threat to public health. Let’s dive into what antibiotic resistance is and how you can prevent it.
A Brief History of Antibiotics
Although antibiotics have become a large part of today’s medical treatments, they have only been in use for about 100 years. The first known antibiotic was discovered in 1910 and called salvarsan but the accidental discovery of penicillin in 1928 began the “golden age” of antibiotics. The discovery of antibiotics is considered the greatest medical breakthrough of the 20th century by some health experts. Antibiotics have not only helped treat bacterial infections but also aided in developing cancer treatments, organ transplants, and open-heart surgery. 2 The use of antibiotics has saved countless lives but resistance to antibiotics has been on the rise and has become a threat to public health.
What is Antibiotic Resistance?
Bacteria, viruses, and fungi are constantly evolving in order to survive. Bacteria change and mutate over time so that antibiotics cannot kill them. When a bacteria can no longer be killed by an antibiotic, it is called antibiotic resistance. The bacteria have become resistant to the antibiotic. This is a problem because it could lead us back to square one before antibiotics were discovered. Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to public health at this time.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than 2.8 million antimicrobial-resistant infections in the United States every year and more than 35,000 people die as a result. 1 Antibiotic resistance can affect anyone and will make bacterial infections more deadly. Infections that require a second or third type of antibiotic treatment can harm people by causing side effects and complications such as organ damage, organ failure, and prolonged healing time. There are many medical treatments and surgeries that use antibiotics such as joint replacement surgery, organ transplant surgery, and cancer therapy. These treatments would become riskier without the use of antibiotics. 1
How to Prevent Antibiotic Resistance?
Everyone can help in the fight to prevent antibiotic resistance. The first line of defense is to prevent infections from occurring in the first place. This can be done by practicing good hand hygiene, covering your mouth with your elbow or a tissue when you squeeze or cough, staying home when you are sick, getting vaccinated, and maintaining your health. If you are prescribed an antibiotic, you should follow the administration instructions and complete the entire course of antibiotics unless directed otherwise by your healthcare provider. You should not use antibiotics for something that is not deemed a bacterial infection by your healthcare provider. You should not share antibiotics with others or save them for future use. Practice safe sex practices because sexually transmitted infections can also become resistant to antibiotics. 3
To learn more about antibiotic resistance and how you can help fight it, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, December 13). About antibiotic resistance. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved June 27, 2022
- Hutchings, M. I., Truman, A. W., & Wilkinson, B. (2019). Antibiotics: Past, present and future. Current Opinion in Microbiology, 51, 72–80
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, November 22). Protect yourself and your family. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved June 28, 2022