Media outlets left, right and centre are increasingly focussing on what is being deemed as the ‘antibiotics apocalypse’, another name for the situation that is arising as our current antibiotics become resistant to many different infections. But, what does this all mean? What are the implications for the future? Don’t worry; we at Discuss are here to tell you the facts.
What is antibiotics resistance?
Bacterial infections, such as MRSA and gonorrhoea, have evolved over time to begin to resist the antibiotics we use to treat them. This means the antibiotics are becoming less effective. As a result, infections are becoming harder to treat and cure. Long-term, scientists are concerned that currently manageable and curable diseases will become incurable. The Telegraph reports that antibiotic resistant bugs kill 700,000 people a year worldwide and 10,000 in Britain*.
Why has this happened?
Overuse of antibiotics is fuelling the bacterial resistance we are seeing. Overuse is commonly caused by:
- Unnecessary prescriptions from doctors.
- The inclusion of antibiotics in livestock production.
- Patients not completing a full course of antibiotics when needed.
Socio and economic factors come in to play here also, with researching citing age and social conditions as common causes for overuse of antibiotics**.
What is being done?
Scientists are currently researching how to make current antibiotics more effective. For example, proteins found in human breast milk and synthetic compounds, such as tarocin A and tarocin B***, are being investigated and showing promising results.
Brand new antibiotics are also being looked into; however, taking significant time, money and resources to research, and without any guarantees, there is reluctance amongst pharmaceutical companies and investors to take on these projects.
What can I do?
The good news is there are things you can do to help slow the rise of antibiotic resistant infections. These include:
- Good hygiene- regular hand washing, including when preparing food can help stop the spread of many bacteria.
- If you are prescribed antibiotics by your doctor, it is vital to complete the course, even if you begin to feel better.
- Do not give antibiotics prescribed to you to anyone else.
- Remember viruses like the common cold cannot be treated by antibiotics so seek the advice of your doctor for the appropriate treatment of your symptoms.
For more information on antibiotic resistance, please see the NHS website.