Antibiotics have been there since 1942 when they were defined by Selman Waksman as a substance produced by a microorganism which hindered the growth of other microorganisms in high dilution. They’re our first line of defence against many common illnesses, but antibiotics are losing their efficacy.
Several diseases over a period of time have been kept in check with these life saving drugs. But over a period of time one may notice that a certain antibiotic doesn’t give the same amount of performance as it is supposed to give. It may be a mild fever or it may be something more serious, nowadays there have been many cases when the antibiotics need to be changed in order to combat certain diseases. Certain antibiotics even result in rashes or allergy of some kind as the body entirely rejects a certain kind of medication even though it used to be effective earlier.
Antibiotic resistance is when bacteria develop a resilience to the drugs we use to kill them. They are able to withstand exposure to particular drugs, making infections of these so-called ‘superbugs’ much more difficult for medical staff to treat.
Aside from the much-publicised superbugs MRSA and C. difficile, sometimes contracted during hospital stays, there are now strains of tuberculosis that are resistant to multiple types of antibiotic. This accounts for around 6% of new TB infections. Antibiotic-resistant infections of gonorrhoea, pneumonia, and E. coli have also been observed.
Bacteria naturally develop resistance to antibiotics over time. But the process is also sped up through improper use of the drugs. People failing to complete their prescribed course of medicine, sharing their drugs with others, or being incorrectly prescribed antibiotics – as a placatory measure for viruses such as the common cold, for example – have all helped to accelerate things.
It could lead to big problems in the future, with the World Health Organization recently warning that we may be heading towards a ‘post-antibiotic era’. This could lead to a rise in infection-related deaths. If doctors are forced to use different or multiple treatments, costs will also rise significantly. Less-developed healthcare systems may also not have access to these other treatments.
Developing new drugs is not quite simple. There have been no new ‘classes’ of antibiotic produced over the past 25 years. New antibiotics that come on to the market are variations on existing drugs, which means that bacteria develop a resistance to them within a much shorter time span.
This signifies a great concern in the medical field because if the already known diseases become resistant to the antibiotics, what about the numerous unknown viruses which are yet to be discovered? We need to keep a check on our own health, do the best we can to keep diseases astray from our surroundings.