In recent years, more and more bacteria have been developing resistance against antibiotics. This phenomenon has become so worrisome that it has been cited as a global health concern. Indeed, much of the success of modern medicine depends on how well our bodies combat infections. If our weapons against infections stop working, we could be exposing ourselves to needlessly alarming diseases.
Take urinary tract infections for example. UTIs are an extremely common infection affecting millions of patients every year in several parts of the world. It’s so common that physicians’ treatment for it usually takes the same form: for uncomplicated UTIs, antibiotics are usually prescribed along with painkillers. With this treatment, patients are expected to be back in full health within seven to ten days.
But recently, there’s a spreading concern that UTIs are becoming harder and harder to treat. Escherichia coli, one of the most common bacteria that causes UTI, has been found to develop resistance against common antibiotics, making a simple UTI case more troublesome than it should be.
But it’s not just UTI you should watch out for. Antibiotic resistance has also become a problem for patients dealing with other infections such as gonorrhea, pneumonia, and tuberculosis.
Collectively, such cases of antibiotic resistance lead to:
- Stubborn and more complicated illnesses
- More doctor consultations
- Use of stronger drugs
- More deaths
All these concerns beg the question, “Should we be afraid of this phenomenon?”
There are plenty of reasons to be truly wary of these phenomena. However, as enumerated below, there are also several good reasons why we shouldn’t be afraid of the spread of antibiotic resistance.
Here are three things you should know about dealing with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
1. You can work with your doctor to prevent and manage antibiotic resistance.
When bacteria develop antibiotic resistance, it can be fairly alarming. However, you can work with your doctor in preventing and managing antibiotic resistance. Some useful tips in preventing this are as follows:
• Never misuse your antibiotics.
Overusing or under-using antibiotics accelerates bacteria’s ability to resist the effects of antibiotics. It’s thus important to follow your doctor’s exact prescription and advice. Always finish your entire antibiotic course, and do not take more antibiotics than you should.
• Don’t ask for antibiotic prescriptions for viral illnesses.
One common reason why some patients end up overusing antibiotics is that they ask their physicians for drug prescriptions for viral illnesses. However, antibiotics are used only for bacterial, not viral, infections and would thus be ineffective against viruses.
• When dealing with recurring infections, consult your doctor regarding alternative approaches.
Some infections, such as UTIs, tend to recur due to one’s lifestyle and habits. As this may increase antibiotic use, make it a point to ask your doctor about alternative treatments to your condition. For instance, your physician may prescribe a single-dose antibiotic for UTI to avoid a week-long treatment regimen.
2. You can take actions to prevent antibiotic resistance.
Like all other types of bacteria, antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria may be passed from person to person. Thus, it’s important to practice good personal hygiene such as washing your hands frequently and using face masks and gloves in hospitals to avoid exposing yourself to bacteria.
Furthermore, you can boost your immune system to prevent the spread and growth of bacteria in the body. Exercise, a balanced diet, and proper rest can help strengthen your immune system and increase your body’s ability to fight infections before they get worse.
3. The medical community is aware and taking actions.
Several globally coordinated efforts are currently being implemented to increase awareness to, prevent the spread of, and fight antibiotic resistance. For instance, the World Health Organization is implementing a global action plan on antibiotic resistance aiming “to ensure prevention and treatment of infectious diseases with safe and effective medicines.” Aside from this, the global action plan also aims to improve people’s understanding of this phenomenon, support research efforts, and ensure sustainable investment in fighting antibiotic resistance.
Aside from awareness campaigns, doctors and scientists are also working on novel approaches to fight this growing concern. For some experts, developing new types of antibiotics with entirely new mechanisms is the next step forward. Others, however, are leaning toward alternative treatments. For instance, Bob Hancock, professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of British Columbia, is focusing on immune modulation therapy, host-directed therapy, and probiotics as means of fighting infections.
Hence, although a foolproof way to fight antibiotic resistant-bacteria is yet to be developed, there are promising projects being pursued by the modern medicine community. Together with preventive efforts against infections, some of these novel solutions may help us effectively manage antibiotic resistance over time.
Indeed, there are several reasons to be truly concerned, and even afraid, of antibiotic resistance. But with the right medical approaches, lifestyle, and preventive practices, we can significantly lessen the possibility of exposing ourselves to stubborn strains of bacteria. The key is to always take care of your health and to regularly consult your doctor to find safe and effective treatment regimens for your infection.