Bacteria are everywhere, and as one of the first life forms to be present on Earth, they have existed for thousands of years. Oxford Languages defines bacteria as “a member of a large group of unicellular microorganisms… including some which can cause disease.” It is when bacteria causes disease that we have cause to worry, but lucky for us, scientific and medicinal progress has meant that we have antibiotics to fight and treat such bacteria and diseases. Unfortunately, bacteria sometimes put up a fight against treatment.
Antibiotic resistance is the ability for bacteria to withstand the effects of antibiotics; this often happens after bacterial mutation. The bacteria that survives then continues to multiply, which causes further spread of the infection, despite the use of antibiotics.
What does that mean for me?
Antibiotic resistance can become a pressing public health issue, because when resistance occurs, it makes it less likely that the infection will be able to be treated with antimicrobial drugs. It should be clear that a person’s immune system does not become resistant; rather, the bacteria becomes resistant to the antibiotic.
After the bacteria becomes stronger and less responsive to antibiotics, it can spread more easily. This means that those close to the person carrying the infection – family members, co-workers, schoolmates, etc. – become more vulnerable to the spread of new strains of an infectious disease.
New, mutated strains are both more difficult and expensive to treat, and it is for this reason, that the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) has placed this as a top issue for many years .
How does bacteria become resistant?
Repeated and improper uses of antibiotics are the primary cause of the increase of drug-resistant bacteria. It is important to understand that antibiotics should be used exclusively to treat bacterial infections. Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections such as the common cold, most sore throats, and the flu. The best way to keep bacteria from becoming resistant is to maintain proper control of antibiotic use.
How can antibiotic resistance be prevented?
First, understand that though antibiotics are useful, they are not to be taken for every infection. Antibiotics should only be used for bacterial infections – like E. coli, Hepatitis A, B, and C, HIV, and influenza, to name a few. More importantly, remember that viral infections, such as the flu or the common cold, are not bacterial infections and antibiotics will not be useful in treating them.
Other helpful tips include:
- Talk with your healthcare provider about antibiotic resistance. Ask him or her about how the antibiotic will benefit the infection, and whether there are any alternatives.
- Do not attempt to use antibiotics for viral infections like the flu or common cold.
- Do not save your leftover antibiotics for the next time you get sick. Discard the left over medication after you have completed your prescribed course of treatment.
- Take all antibiotics as prescribed, and do not skip any doses. Always complete the course of treatment prescribed to you, regardless if you are feeling better. Remember that if you stop treatment before the prescribed course, bacteria may be able to survive and become resistant.
- Do not use antibiotics prescribed to another person, as the treatment may not be right for you and can delay your recovery.
- Speak to your healthcare provider about other ways to relieve your symptoms if it is determined that you do not have a bacterial infection. Never pressure your provider to prescribe you an antibiotic.
Now that you are aware of what antibiotic resistance is, you can help prevent it. Speaking to your physician is always key, and if you do not feel well, it is always a good idea make an appointment and seek medical help.
Here at Healthpointe, we encourage you to ask questions and seek facts. To learn more about antibiotic resistance and to have your other health-related questions answered, schedule a check-up with any of our leading physicians. Call (888) 824-5580, or schedule an appointment today.
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Medically Reviewed by Dr. Roman Shulze, M.D.