The development of the first antibiotic took place over 100 years ago and our human average lifespans took a gigantic leap forward. In fact, doctors credit the discovery and subsequent advancement of antibiotics with adding 23 years to the average lifespan. We here at Tablets Pharmacy think that’s simply amazing – and we would imagine you do too.
However, this century of using antibiotics to avoid life-long medical complications and death means that bacteria have had ample time and opportunity to evolve defenses against these drugs, making antibiotics less effective over time. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, sometimes called “superbugs,” are nothing new; for over 3 billion years, bacteria have continued to evolve to survive. Unfortunately, researchers are now slowing down in the discovery and formulation of new antibiotics just as more and more bacteria are evolving into antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
As a result, there are a number of bacterial infections that are increasingly difficult to treat. The National Institutes of Health estimate that nearly 3 million Americans contract an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection every year, resulting in 35,000 deaths. In 2017, the World Health Organization identified 12 bacterial strains that have or are showing signs of developing broad resistance to a spectrum of antibiotics including the bacteria that cause staph infections, gonorrhea, and tuberculosis. Beyond creating diseases with fewer treatment options, superbugs also tend to impact patients more severely, last longer, require longer and more frequent healthcare visits. Costs are increasing while positive health outcomes are decreasing.
Antibiotics work by disrupting and ultimately eliminating unwanted bacteria in our bodies. But over time, bacteria can mutate or evolve to develop natural resistance to that disruptive process. What’s more, bacteria can not only pass on this new trait to the same family of bacteria, it can pass the trait on to other kinds of bacteria. The more we expose bacteria to other kinds of bacteria and other kinds of antibiotics, the more likely we are to contribute to the formation of a superbug. As a result, more and more healthcare providers recognize the need to use antibiotics selectively.
Overprescribing and inappropriate administration of antibiotic treatments are the overwhelming reasons for the creation of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Shockingly, the CDC estimates that about one-third of all antibiotic use is not needed or inappropriate.
Using an antibiotic to treat a virus is a dangerous misuse; antibiotics do not impact viral infections. This misuse also gives other bacteria an opportunity to learn how to resist a particular antibiotic.
Bacteria are also strengthened when patients who do not complete their entire antibiotic prescription. These patients are likely leaving behind bacteria that have now learned how to resist the antibiotic, requiring a stronger antibiotic when the infection comes raging back.
Taking antibiotics only when needed and completely as prescribed is an important component in our global battle against antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
Antibiotic-resistance is such a pressing concern that healthcare providers are now faced with balancing the need for curing something as common as strep throat with the desire to keep antibiotics viable for other patients with more pressing immune challenges. To alleviate some of this pressure, we can all take steps to minimize our need for and use of antibiotics. For example, the FDA has now banned many antibiotic formulas from hand-soaps and shower gels, both to slow antibiotic-resistance and because antibacterial soaps show no significant advantages over regular soap.
As we enter our second century of life-saving antibiotic use, we must spend our extra 20 years being cautious and responsible. Minimize the use of antibacterial, antibiotic, or antimicrobial products. Minimize exposure to unhealthy bacteria by washing hands with plain soap and water, practicing healthy hygiene, and making safe environmental choices. This way, we will avoid the spread of dangerous bacteria and avoid the creation of superbugs while research and technology find stronger antibiotics to keep us healthier longer.
Do you have questions about your antibiotic prescription? Contact Tablets Pharmacy at 708-272-1212 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be happy to help!