The US Antibiotic Awareness Week (formerly “Get Smart about Antibiotics Week”) is a one-week observance every year to raise awareness of the danger of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance is when an antibiotic that used to work against a certain kind of bacteria is no longer able to fight that particular bacteria because the bacteria develops resistance against the antibiotic. This is an extremely dangerous phenomenon, as people die because there is no way to save them, since the antibiotic no longer works. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that every year about two million people get infected with strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and about 23,000 people die every year as a result.
Antibiotics Save Lives
Antibiotics first came into use during World War II and were hailed as miracle drugs, as indeed they were and still are. However, over time some antibiotics no longer work against certain kinds of infections.
Antibiotics have Transformed Modern Medicine
There are many surgical procedures, organ transplants, joint replacements, cancer therapy and treatment of chronic diseases that depend on antibiotics. Thus, the emergence of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria will lead to more and more deaths.
Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs)
Hospitals are one of the easiest places to pick up antibiotic resistance strains of bacteria, especially for people who have compromised immune systems, suffer from chronic illnesses or are weak after surgical operations. In fact, this is one of the reasons that doctors send patients home as soon as possible, when they are hospitalized, so they will not hang around long enough to pick up dangerous strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
More Scrupulous Hygiene is Needed in Hospitals
At one time doctors and nurses wore paper covers over their shoes to prevent bringing in bacteria from the street into the hospital. They wore more masks and not just during operations. Nurses and doctors all covered their hair at all times and not just in the operating room. HAIs have to return to more scrupulous hygienic practices. Also, visitors were only allowed in at certain hours and only one or two at a time and small children were not allowed to visit in hospitals. Today in many parts of the world visitors can come in at any time and often come in droves.
Antibiotics and Livestock
Another reason for the appearance of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria may be the widespread use of antibiotics among poultry, cattle and other livestock to promote growth and to prevent outbreaks of diseases like in chicken coops. These antibiotics are mainly used on healthy animals who do not need the antibiotics, but they are given antibiotics to prevent diseases. This helps to create resistant strains of antibiotics. It is estimated that about 80% of antibiotics sold in the US are for promoting growth and preventing diseases among livestock.
Antibiotics are Sometimes Given Unnecessarily
The CDC estimates that about 30% of antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily such as prescribing them for simple infections that can clear up on their own, or prescribing them for viruses like the common cold or when penicillin is prescribed for a viral sore throat that is mistaken for a bacterial strep infection.
In some countries antibiotics are sold over the counter without the need of a doctor’s prescription. This leads to widespread misuse of antibiotics when people can decide on their own to buy antibiotics. In fact many are advertised for sale on the Internet as well.
Antibiotics should only be Taken by the Person they were Prescribed for
A recent study noted that antibiotics are often widely shared between family members and not just the person they were prescribed for. This also leads to them being overused in cases where they may not really be needed.
Pharmaceutical Companies Prefer to Develop more Expensive Drugs
As antibiotics are not very expensive, pharmaceutical companies do not invest enough in developing new antibiotics, but prefer to make drugs for chronic conditions that will render them a greater profit or anti-cancer drugs, which are very expensive.
Long-term Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Care
Antibiotic resistant germs can also be picked up in long-term care facilities, so be certain to choose one that is very clean and has a bathroom in each room. The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York has spotlessly clean private and semi-private rooms with a bathroom in each bedroom. For more about amenities and recreation at Van Duyn Please see our blog post from May 30, 2018.
Antibiotic resistance affects us all and we should all be careful to only take them on a doctor’s prescription and to take them exactly the way we are supposed to.