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Antibiotics Awareness: what goes around comes around

Hello there! I bet you can't say "I do not owe my existence to Antibiotics". Even if you claim not to have fallen sick in your entire life, you still owe that unrealistic feat to this wonder drug. Antibiotics are medications used in the treatment of bacterial infections. Ever since its discovery, there has been a notable improvement in healthcare and reduction of human morbidity and mortality. Consequently, antibiotics were inappropriately seen as the sovereign remedy to any illness. Unfortunately, this error has boomeranged against humanity in that these harmful bacteria have developed resistance against antibiotics. This nightmare has led to increased cost and duration of treatments, suffering, poor economic growth and numerous deaths.

Bacteria are organisms that are not visible to the human eye. They could be pathogenically responsible for myriad of infections like Tuberculosis. Thankfully, antibiotics are potent chemicals that have the ability to kill or inhibit the growth of these microbes. However, with the inappropriate use of antibiotics, bacteria previously susceptible to these drugs have become resistant through naturally occurring processes known as spontaneous mutation and selection. Thus, the bacterium continues to thrive while being exposed to the drug that once had the strength to kill it. Knowing that the world is a global village, it is easy for resistant bacteria strains to get transmitted from one person to the other, thereby making antibiotic resistance a public health concern.

Bacterial infection and antibiotic resistance can be spread via poor hand hygiene, unhygienic food preparation, drinking contaminated water, practising unsafe sex, and poor attitude towards vaccination. Therefore, practising good hygiene is the most effective way to reduce infection. There would be no need for antibiotics if we do not have an ongoing bacterial infection in the first place.

It is also important to note that not all illnesses are caused by bacteria. Infections can be caused by other organisms that are fungal, viral or parasitic, and they cannot be cured by antibiotics. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed is the leading cause of antibiotics resistance. This further emphasizes why the advice of a qualified health care professional should be sought when we are under the weather. We are advised to only take antibiotics when they are prescribed by a doctor, and avoid sharing them with family or friends.

Prevention is said to be better and cheaper than cure. Vaccination has been effective in reducing the incidence of infectious diseases like tuberculosis, meningitis, pneumonia and tetanus.  Unvaccinated individuals are at risk of infection, and they contribute to the amount of the pathogenic bacteria within the society. These bacteria can subsequently become resistant causing a lot of health problems.

Increase in untreatable infections will have a sinister effect on society; therefore, we have to collectively fight against antibiotic resistance in order to prevent its spread.  Every one of us!

Article By: Dr. Boluwatife Oyetayo