Antibiotics are substances that kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria, and they are widely used in medicine to treat bacterial infections. However, the efficiency of antibiotics is decreasing due to the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance, which is a serious threat to global health. In this paper, we will discuss the causes and consequences of antibiotic resistance, as well as some possible solutions to preserve the efficacy of antibiotics.
Causes of Antibiotic Resistance
Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria evolve mechanisms to withstand the effects of antibiotics. This can happen through several ways, such as:
– Mutation: Bacteria can acquire random changes in their DNA that make them less susceptible to antibiotics. For example, some bacteria can mutate their target sites for antibiotics, reducing their affinity for the drugs (Stokes et al., 2019).
– Horizontal gene transfer: Bacteria can exchange genetic material with other bacteria, especially through plasmids, which are small circular DNA molecules that can carry resistance genes. For example, some bacteria can acquire plasmids that encode enzymes that degrade or modify antibiotics, rendering them ineffective (Antibiotic – Wikipedia, 2021).
– Selection: Bacteria that have resistance genes can survive and multiply in the presence of antibiotics, while susceptible bacteria are killed or inhibited. This leads to a change in the bacterial population over time, favoring the resistant strains (Antibiotics Are Losing Their Effectiveness: What You Can Do, 2015).
The main cause of antibiotic resistance is the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in human and animal health. Some examples of inappropriate use of antibiotics are:
– Prescribing or taking antibiotics for viral infections, such as colds or flu, which are not affected by antibiotics (Antibiotics Are Losing Their Effectiveness: What You Can Do, 2015).
– Not completing the prescribed course of antibiotics, which can leave some bacteria alive and allow them to develop resistance (Antibiotics Are Losing Their Effectiveness: What You Can Do, 2015).
– Using low doses or poor quality of antibiotics, which can create suboptimal conditions for killing bacteria and promote resistance (Stokes et al., 2019).
– Using antibiotics as growth promoters or prophylactics in livestock, which can expose large numbers of bacteria to subtherapeutic levels of antibiotics and select for resistant strains (Antibiotic – Wikipedia, 2021).
Consequences of Antibiotic Resistance
Antibiotic resistance has serious implications for human and animal health, as well as for the environment and the economy. Some of the consequences are:
– Increased morbidity and mortality: Resistant infections are harder to treat and can cause more severe outcomes, such as prolonged illness, complications, hospitalization, and death. For example, it is estimated that antibiotic resistance causes 1.27 million deaths per year worldwide (Global deaths attributable to antimicrobial resistance numbered 1.27 million in 2019., 2021).
– Reduced treatment options: Resistant bacteria can limit the effectiveness of existing antibiotics and reduce the availability of alternative therapies. For example, some bacteria have become resistant to multiple classes of antibiotics, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), leaving few or no options for treatment (Antibiotic – Wikipedia, 2021).
– Increased health care costs: Resistant infections can increase the costs of health care by requiring more diagnostic tests, longer hospital stays, more intensive care, and more expensive drugs. For example, it is estimated that antibiotic resistance costs $55 billion per year in the United States alone (Antibiotics Are Losing Their Effectiveness: What You Can Do, 2015).
– Environmental contamination: Resistant bacteria and antibiotic residues can enter the environment through human and animal waste, wastewater treatment plants, agricultural runoff, and medical waste disposal. This can create reservoirs of resistance genes and expose other bacteria to selective pressure for resistance (Stokes et al., 2019).
Solutions to Preserve Antibiotic Efficacy
To prevent or slow down the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance, it is essential to implement a multifaceted approach that involves various stakeholders and sectors. Some of the possible solutions are:
– Rational use of antibiotics: Antibiotics should be prescribed and used only when necessary and appropriate, following evidence-based guidelines and best practices. Patients should adhere to their prescribed course of antibiotics and avoid self-medication or sharing antibiotics with others. Health care providers should monitor antibiotic use and resistance patterns and provide education and feedback to prescribers and consumers (Antibiotics Are Losing Their Effectiveness: What You Can Do, 2015).
– Infection prevention and control: Infections should be prevented or contained by implementing hygienic measures, such as hand washing, disinfection, sterilization, isolation, and vaccination. Health care facilities should follow strict protocols to prevent the transmission of resistant bacteria among patients, staff, and visitors. Animal health should be improved by enhancing animal husbandry, nutrition, and welfare, and by reducing the use of antibiotics for non-therapeutic purposes (Antibiotic – Wikipedia, 2021).
– Research and innovation: New antibiotics and alternative therapies should be developed and tested to overcome resistance and expand treatment options. For example, some potential alternatives are bacteriophages, which are viruses that infect and kill bacteria; probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that can modulate the gut microbiota; and immunotherapy, which can enhance the host’s immune response to infections (Stokes et al., 2019).
– Surveillance and regulation: Antibiotic resistance should be monitored and reported by national and international surveillance systems, using standardized methods and indicators. Antibiotic use and resistance data should be shared and analyzed to inform policy and practice. Antibiotic production, distribution, and quality should be regulated and enforced by legal and ethical frameworks. Antibiotic stewardship programs should be implemented and evaluated to optimize antibiotic use and outcomes (Antibiotics Are Losing Their Effectiveness: What You Can Do, 2015).
Antibiotics are valuable drugs that have saved millions of lives from bacterial infections. However, their efficiency is threatened by the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance, which is a complex and multifactorial problem that requires urgent action. To preserve the efficacy of antibiotics, it is necessary to adopt a holistic and coordinated approach that involves rational use of antibiotics, infection prevention and control, research and innovation, surveillance and regulation, and public awareness and education.
– Antibiotic – Wikipedia. (2021). Retrieved October 16, 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antibiotic
– Antibiotics Are Losing Their Effectiveness: What You Can Do. (2015). Retrieved October 16, 2021 from https://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/articles/2015/07/13/antibiotics-are-losing-their-effectiveness-what-you-can-do
– Global deaths attributable to antimicrobial resistance research paper writing service numbered 1.27 million in 2019. (2021). Retrieved October 16, 2021 from https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(21)00202-6/fulltext
– Stokes J.M., Lopatkin A.J., Lobritz M.A., Collins J.J. (2019). Bacterial Metabolism and Antibiotic Efficacy. Cell Metabolism, 30(2), 251–259. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2019.06.009