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The World’s Public Enemy: Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Posted on Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Antibiotic resistance, the increase of bacteria that cannot be killed by modern antibiotics, is a major public health concern. It’s important to understand what antibiotic resistance is and how to prevent it.

The discovery of antibiotics and the development of several mainstream antibiotics from the 1920s to the 1970s changed society. Here in the U.S. and developed countries, death from tuberculosis or childhood pneumonia are rare. Life expectancy has more than doubled in the last 150 years, and antibiotics played a major role in that shift. When you get an infection like strep throat, your doctor gives you an antibiotic, and within 24 hours you feel as though you were never even sick.

But what would our world be like without these magic bullets? Bacteria that are not killed by existing antibiotics continue to develop and multiply as those that used to cause common diseases in humans and animals die out. Antibiotic resistance, the increase of bacteria that cannot be killed by modern antibiotics, is a major public health concern. It’s important to understand what antibiotic resistance is and how to prevent it.

What is antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotic resistance describes bacteria that are not killed or effected by antibiotics. Bacteria can change in ways that reduce the effectiveness of medications and those that change in a way that makes them survive when other bacteria are killed by an antibiotic become more likely to multiply and strengthen

What can I do to help prevent antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections so taking these medications for a virus won’t help you get better and will increase the environment for resistant bacteria to grow. Common viral infections include colds, most sore throats, sinus infections, and most ear infections. Talk to your doctor if he or she is considering prescribing an antibiotic and you think you may have a virus.

If you do need to take antibiotics, take them exactly as directed by your doctor. Discard any leftovers- do not keep them for future use or give them to someone else to take.

Helping prevent antibiotic resistance is a step towards protecting future generations from emerging infectious diseases.