Antibiotic resistance by some bacteria
Antibiotics are our weapon of last resort in the antibiotics armory. They help us treat bacterial infection and also to make deadly diseases curable. Well we all knew that!! But, did you know that one of the biggest problems in medicine is antibiotic resistance? No? Read on to understand one of the growing problems in medicine and its implications.
A study carried out in South China Agricultural University reflects that there are some bacteria that are no longer killed by antibiotics; these bacteria are called antibiotic resistant and they are a growing problem in medicine.
When antibiotics are used frequently over a longer period of time they put selective pressure on bacteria and cause the resistance to spread. Sometimes a bacterium with an advantage lives and that is when it reproduces and passes its advantage on. The widespread use of antibiotics is what promotes this very spread of resistance against the antibiotics.
As per the ‘State of World Antibiotics 2015’ report, New Delhi, India is counted as the leading consumer of antibiotics. These reports also claim that antibiotic resistance will kill 300 million people by 2050.
As time grows, treatments will become tougher and the casualties or failed cases caused by resistance of antibiotics will grow even further. If we do not act today, we will put our children at risk because they will lose their line of defense against fatal bacteria. In order to resolve this problem, first let’s understand how bacteria can become resistant?!
Mechanisms for bacteria to become resistant
As we all know, evolution and change is how nature works. Like humans, nature provides equal fighting chances to all its creations. Bacteria, just like humans has evolved and so they are better adept to the conditions around them and better able to handle the resistance in the environment.
These organisms are only just fighting back for their survival. They come up with smart ways to counter the actions of antibiotics. They do this by:
a) Either preventing the antibiotic from getting to its target by using strategies to keep antibiotics at bay by changing the permeability of their membranes or by reducing the number of channels available for drugs to diffuse through.
Sometimes bacteria use energy from ATP (mechanism for us to store and use our energy) to power pumps that shoot the antibiotic out of the cell or use molecules to bounce the antibiotics out of the cell.
b) Or changing the structure of the target (or replace it with another molecule) so as to make the recognition of the antibiotic impossible and not allow the antibiotic to stick to their target.
c) Or destroying the antibiotic by neutralizing it directly by producing enzymes called beta-lactamases to chew up the penicillin and kill the antibiotic.
As per Anurag Roy, Business Unit Director of DSM Sinochem Pharmaceuticals, antibiotic resistance, or antimicrobial resistance is responsible for the death of 60,000 babies in India who are vulnerable and unable to fight infections. Hence it is time that we address the problem now. Here is a list of strategies to delay the spread of antibiotic resistance:
Strategies to reduce the effects of this problem:
1. Never use antibiotics to treat those virals- Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. Taking antibiotics for a cold or flu only introduces a selective pressure on bacteria in your body and selects for antibiotic-resistance bacteria! So use antibiotics only in adverse situations so that when you need it most, they can have an effect on the bacteria.
2. Do not take mild doses of antibiotics over long period of time- In order to kill all of the illness-causing bacteria in your body, high-dosage prescription is preferable. This is important because if we are introducing the selective pressure (antibiotics) we want to make the illness-causing bacteria in the host extinct, and not cause their evolution into resistant forms on the contrary!
3. Take all your pills, always- This one is important because not only do mild doses heighten the resistance on the part of the bacteria but even half dosages that are not completely consumed can allow the bacteria to adapt and grow. When you decide to take antibiotics, ensure that the dose is strong enough and lasts long enough to end your infection and destroy the bacteria entirely.
4. Avoid those antibiotics on your crops and livestock as much as possible- Using antibiotics continuously in order to kill the bacteria as a preventive means on the crops and the herd is first of all unethical. Next, it may also lead to more resistance and enhanced evolution for the bacteria.
Such a use of antibiotics can also introduce them into the bodies of humans that eat those very crops or consume from the livestock. This will reduce the effect of the antibiotic when most needed by making the bacteria resistant!! Hence, it is important that we try to eliminate the use of antibiotics on livestock and crops as much as possible, or find alternatives for the same.
5. Use a combination of drugs- If one drug does not work then that means it has become resistant and is not causing an effect. Taking stronger doses of that drug only increases the strength of that pressure and causes a “super-resistant” strain. Hence, in these cases trying antibiotics that the bacteria will not be familiar with, and using different combinations will not only provide you with relief but also help to cause the extinction of the bacteria.
We hope that this article has provided you with some useful information on antibiotic resistance. Since this phenomenon has been causing problem for medicine all over the world, perhaps using these common strategies can at least help reduce this evolution and contribute to making a stronger and healthier tomorrow for our future generations!!
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