Antibiotic Resistance: A Global Health Crisis that Must be DirectedDur - E - Sameen
The discovery of antibiotics is one of the greatest medical breakthroughs in the history of medicine. Before this discovery, people usually died because of minor infections. Antibiotics increase the life expectancy of people by helping their bodies fight the infection caused by bacteria and also make different medical interventions possible, such as invasive surgeries and cancer chemotherapy.
From the beginning of their use, bacteria are not just silently watching their eradication from the world; instead, they are continually fighting back and developing resistance against their enemy, which in this case are antibiotics. This antibiotic resistance is now becoming a global health concern as the number of bacteria resistant to at least one antibiotic is increasing day by day.
If this does not slow down, then the time is not far when it will become difficult to treat even minor infections with the help of antibiotics. In this post, we will discuss what antibiotic resistance is, how it happens, why it is a threat to us, and what we can do to limit its development. 
What is Antibiotic Resistance, and How Does it Happen?
Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria develop a defense mechanism against antibiotics, which are drugs that are meant to kill them. It is important to understand that it is the bacteria themselves that become resistant to the effects of antibiotics, not the human body.
Antibiotic resistance is a natural thing. Some bacteria are naturally resistant to certain antibiotics, whereas some bacteria undergo different mutations to adopt various mechanisms of resistance, such as:
- They can throw the antibiotic out of their system.
- They can decrease the influx of antibiotics into their cellular structure by bringing about changes in membrane permeability.
- They can alter the shape of the protein that is the target of the antibiotic.
- They can degrade the antibiotic structure by enzymatic reactions, etc.
Any of these can make antibiotics ineffective and unable to kill them. The resistant bacteria remain growing, multiplying into more resistant copies and transferring these new mutant genes to other organisms through plasmids. Other non-resistant bacteria can also pick up the resistant or stray mutant genes through the environment and become resistant organisms.
Although antibiotic resistance is a natural process, overuse and misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals have contributed to this phenomenon. Every time we take antibiotics, there is a chance that some bacteria develop resistance against them and produce more resistant copies. So the use of antibiotics itself is the driving factor behind antibiotic resistance, and they should only be prescribed when they are needed.
Similarly, the overuse of antibiotics in food-producing animals for disease control and growth becomes the reason for cultivating resistant species. This resistance bacterium later transmits to humans who handle and eat this food and can lead to serious infectious diseases. 
Also Read: What is mRNA Vaccine Technology?
Why is Antibiotic Resistance a Threat to Us?
The problem is that the infection caused by resistant bacteria cannot be cured by commonly used antibiotics, and we have to move on to stronger, more expensive, or sometimes less friendly antibiotics in terms of side effects. This type of infection sometimes takes a longer time to cure and can lead to secondary infections such as sepsis or other health issues.
According to a joint report by the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and the World Organization for Animal Health published in 2019, it is estimated that the number of deaths caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria can reach up to 10 million each year by 2050.
There was a registered case in 2016 of a 70-year-old woman from Nevada who died from a bacterial infection that was resistant to all the available antibiotics in the United States. This type of case is an indication that if we do not take some immediate action and this antibiotic resistance continues to grow, the time is not far when no antibiotic will remain effective, and the easily treatable infection will become life-threatening.
Examples of some superbugs that are resistant to almost all the commonly used antibiotics are
- methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
- multi-drug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MDR-TB)
- vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE)
- carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE)
How can We Prevent Antibiotic Resistance?
There are certain things that we can do as individuals to prevent the prevalence of antibiotic resistance and win this war against germs, which are given below.
Prevent the Infection in the First Place
1. Adopt good hygiene practices, such as
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Use tissues or your hand for coughing or sneezing.
- Don’t touch your eyes, ears, or nose with dirty hands.
- Keep a suitable distance from the people who are sick.
- Try to avoid socializing and going out when you are sick.
2. Get vaccinated, as it helps your immune system fight infections. 
Ensure Proper Use of Antibiotics
Antibiotics only work for bacterial infections, so if you have a viral infection, don’t pressurize your healthcare provider for an antibiotic, as it will not treat your infection. Instead, it promotes antibiotic resistance in the good bacteria in your body, which they can transmit to other bacteria.
If your health care provider prescribed you an antibiotic, make sure to take it as prescribed and complete the course. If you stop taking them in the middle when you start to feel better, there is a chance that some bacteria are still present in your body, and they again start to multiply. You can get sick again, and this time you may need higher doses of the same antibiotics or switch to other, stronger antibiotics.
Don’t use anyone else’s antibiotics or share your antibiotics with someone else. Taking the wrong antibiotics can prolong your illness and promote antibiotic resistance.
After completing the course, discard the leftover antibiotic, do not save it for your next use. They are only for one-time use.
Antibiotic resistance has become one of the major health concerns across the globe as the emergence of bacteria that are resistant to one or multiple antibiotics are accelerating. The infections caused by this type of bacteria are very serious and difficult to treat. It is very important to take appropriate steps to limit this spread; otherwise, time is not far when minor infections and injuries can become the reason for death.
It is only possible with the proper use of antibiotics. Along with policymakers, we also must make sure that we play our part in stopping the emergence of antibiotic resistance and only use antibiotics when they are prescribed and as they are prescribed.
No, antibiotics are only used to treat bacterial infections. Most minor viral infections usually resolve on their own, but for certain viral infections, antiviral medication is used.
Antimicrobial is a broader term that covers all the drugs that act against different types of microorganisms, such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. Whereas an antibiotic is a type of antimicrobial agent that is used to prevent or treat bacterial infections only.
Yes, Other classes of microorganisms can also develop resistance to the antimicrobial agents that are meant to treat them. For example, viruses can become resistant to antivirals, and fungi can develop resistance to antifungals.
Those bacteria that become resistant to multiple antibiotics are called “superbugs.”
 Antibiotic resistance – who.int
 What is antibiotic resistance? – yourgenome.org
 How to prevent antibiotic resistance? – kreftforeningen.no
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