|Bacterial resistance to medications has even made it more dangerous for people to have major medical procedures / Photo by Getty Images|
Modern medicine has worked wonders for humanity and helped millions of people survive diseases and live long and healthy lives. But now, a new concern has cropped up about having too many medications so accessible to everyone that it may actually be working against us.
How could it be that taking more of a particular medicine could actually lead to detrimental effects in the future?
Antibiotics are some of mankind’s greatest inventions. These are medicines that can be used to treat and even prevent the spread of bacterial infection. In almost everywhere in the world, you can have access to these drugs, and some can even be bought without a prescription. As it turns out, however, the widespread use of these medicines has made it more difficult to fight bacteria in general. In fact, this is one of the largest threats to health that we face today, and about 750 thousand lives have fallen victim to the rise of drug-resistant bacteria, according to ReAct Group.org.
So how did this happen? First off, bacteria are adaptable organisms. When we use a medication against them, they can change in response to it and become better able to resist the effects of the drug. Many bacteria then become increasingly resistant to medications, and when humans or animals become infected with these stronger strains, they become harder to treat since the bacteria know now how to fight back against these drugs.
Dangerous to Everyone
Antibiotic resistance is unavoidable when treating bacteria, but humanity has been misusing these drugs to the point that the process has been accelerated. In fact, a great number of infectious bacteria, such as gonorrhea, salmonella, pneumonia, and tuberculosis have become incredibly difficult to treat due to the misuse of the medications meant to treat them, according to the World Health Organization. This then leads to longer hospital stays, increased medical costs, and even higher rates of disease and death in populations across the world.
Aside from preventing the treatment of specific conditions, bacterial resistance to medications has even made it more dangerous for people to have major medical procedures, such as surgeries, organ transplants, as well as the treatment of premature babies and cancer patients, as they are the ones who need the most protection from opportunistic infections. It also makes it more difficult for world health groups to reach their global goals of eradicating certain diseases and improving children’s and mother’s health. An estimated 214 thousand newborns die from sepsis, or blood infection, that is caused by drug-resistant bacteria every year.
|The way that medications are used and prescribed needs to be changed / Photo by Getty Images|
How Did This Happen?
While it seems like we need to fight fire with fire and create even better medicines to combat this problem, this would make the situation direly worse. The bacteria would continue to become even more resistant, and eventually, modern medicine will not be able to keep up with their adaptations to fight back. Even common diseases will become deadly as they will become highly resistant to our medicines.
Because medicines have become so easy to procure, we have effectively spread and increased the resistance of bacteria in the general population. People who only have minor infections will use medications as an easy solution, which helps the bacteria boost their own defenses against it. This is also augmented by the fact that many countries do not have proper treatment guidelines set up. Veterinarians and animal farmers use antibiotics even on healthy animals to prevent them from getting sick, and even health care workers are overprescribed with antibiotics.
A Movement to Stop Drug Resistance
The threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is not one that will happen in the near-future. It’s already happening at this moment, and the WHO Director-General Margaret Chan has even declared the current era of modern medicine as the “post-antibiotic era” where bacteria could become too dangerous to deal with. In response, the fight against these super-bacteria has become a top priority for the organization. They have endorsed a global action plan in 2015, and it involves strategic objectives. These are improving the public’s awareness of these dangers, improving the research and use of antimicrobial medicines, reducing the casualties, and creating a sustainable system.
Behavioral modification of the way people use antibiotics and not an improvement of the antibiotics themselves has also been emphasized. The way that medications are used and prescribed needs to be changed, and people themselves should engage in better and healthier habits, such as good food hygiene and hand washing for starters.
Individuals who aren’t medical professionals should only use a certain antibiotic if it has been prescribed by their physician and should engage in safe practices like avoiding contact with ill people, having their vaccinations, and also practicing safe sex. Those in positions of power should also regulate and promote the proper use of medications by implementing policies and programs that will help make sure that these quality products are not abused.