s: An Overused Remedy
For about 50 years, antibiotics have been the answer to many, if not all, bacterial
infections. Doctors prescribed antibiotic medicines to cure many diseases, eliminate
infection and shorten healing time. But within the bodies of patients receiving those
prescriptions, not all of the targeted bacteria died. Resistant strains survived, proliferated
and a new resistant generation was born. People may believe that modern medical
science will always have the solution, yet with each decade, bacteria that are resistant to
not one, but multiple antibiotics are selected for in the breeding ground of the human
body. A plan for action must be created to prevent the advent of super bugs that are
resistant to anything and everything.
Resistance to antibiotics can be the result of several things: One is the overuse or
improper use of antibiotic agents. Unfortunately, many people believe that when they get
sick, antibiotics are the answer. The more a drug is used, the less effect it has on the
bacteria it was designed to kill.
Another cause of resistance is the improper use of prescription and over the
counter drugs. Some patients feel that their symptoms have improved, and then
discontinue use of the drug. But not finishing the prescription may allow some bacteria
to survive and be immune to a second dose. Prescribed drugs should be taken until all the
medicine is gone so the disease is completely eliminated. After the prescription is
finished, your body’s immune system can eliminate any remaining bacteria.
Bacteria are also capable of picking up resistance traits from free-floating DNA.
If the DNA is from a species of bacteria that has developed resistance, like certain types
that have always lived near penicillin. Those resistant bacteria die, and their DNA
remains intact. When DNA enters a single bacterium, it moves to the nucleus where it
may be incorporated into the next generation of offspring from that cell.
Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928. While growing bacteria
colonies, he noticed clear spots in the cultures. He realized that a fungus growth had
killed off bacteria in his experiment. Penicillin works by attaching to a cell wall and
breaking it down until the bacterium breaks up. It was to be the most prolific antibiotic
Penicillin was hailed as a miracle drug. Drug companies mass produced it, but a
few years later doctors noticed the first signs of resistance developing. Staphylococcus
aureus was the first to be documented, and many would follow.
Antibiotic resistance spreads fast through careless use of antibiotics but efforts are
being made to slow it. Improving infection control, isolation of hospital infections, the
development of new antibiotics, and taking drugs more appropriately are ways to prevent
resistant bacteria from spreading. In developing nations, approaches are being made to
control infections such as mandating hand washing by health care workers and
identifying drug resistant infections quickly to keep them away from others. Already, the
World Health Organization has begun a global computer program that reports any
outbreaks of drug-resistant bacterial infections.
Doctors, patients, and governments must cooperate and work together to create an
environment of education, research and proper use. When that happens, further
development in the fight against resistance may take place.
Bylinsky, Gene. Sept. 5,1995. The new fight against killer microbes. Fortune. p. 74-76.
Dixon, Bernard. March 17,1995. Return of the killer bugs. New Statesman & Society. p. 29-32.
Levy, Stuart B. Jan. 15,1995. Dawn of the post-antibiotic era? Patient Care. p. 84-86.
Lewis, Ricki. Sept. 1995. The rise of antibiotic-resistant infections. FDA Consumer. p. 11-15.
Miller, Julie Ann. June 1995. Preparing for the postantibiotic era. BioScience.