The death toll will skyrocket: these are the dangers of misuse of antibiotics

The discovery of antibiotics in the last century is considered one of the most important achievements in the history of medicine. Antibiotic use significantly reduced the morbidity and mortality associated with bacterial infections and extended the average lifespan by almost 20 years however, improper use of antibiotics led to the emergence and spread of multi-resistant bacterial strains.

This condition has been identified by the World Health Organization as one of the greatest dangers to humanity. Many countries, including Israel, are promoting training and monitoring programs regarding the intelligent use of antibiotics, in order to reduce the spread of multi-resistant bacterial strains.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria develop survival mechanisms that neutralize some of the efficacy of antibiotics. Bacteria are known to acquire drug resistance by various means, such as the migration of genetic elements from different species from the environment, the acquisition of a gene that causes the drug to be resistant, a genetic change in the bacterium itself and more.

As a result, when infected with a multidrug-resistant bacterium, the drugs are ineffective and cause high morbidity due to delay in initiating appropriate antibiotics and as a result of the unavailability of effective preparations. Hospitalization is prolonged and there is an increase in mortality.

One of the common reasons for the development of antimicrobial resistance is the unwise use of antibiotics. For example, taking underdose treatment, stopping antibiotics in the middle of the treatment course, using antibiotic treatment to treat a viral illness (such as the flu) and more. Another reason for the increase in durability is that the world is an accessible global village that produces good conditions for the passage of resistant bacteria from continent to continent and thus the resistant bacteria spread rapidly throughout the world.

In the past resistant bacteria were called “hospital bacteria”. But today it seems that carriers and infections as a result of multidrug-resistant bacteria have also become common in the community and new forms of resistance can appear and spread rapidly. For example, the E. coli bacterium, which is the leading cause of urinary tract infections in the community, has in recent years become resistant to multiple antibiotics to which it has been sensitive in the past.

The spread of resistant varieties in the community can be slowed down through simple interventions, such as maintaining good hygiene, routine vaccinations, safe sex and food preparation while strictly adhering to sanitation rules.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of deaths attributed to multidrug-resistant bacteria are reported worldwide, while the rate of development of new antibiotics for multidrug-resistant bacteria has dropped significantly. If it is not possible to find effective antibiotics and produce them in sufficient quantities, then the number of deaths will skyrocket to millions a year, according to warnings from the World Health Organization.

In fact, preventing the spread of antibiotic resistance begins in each and every one of us. According to the recommendations of the World Health Organization, this can be done in a few simple steps:

Taking antibiotics only according to the dose and period of time prescribed by the doctor.

· Never “require” antibiotics if the doctor says they are not needed.

· Under no circumstances should antibiotics prescribed to another patient be taken or antibiotic residues from a previous illness used.

· The safest and most effective way to prevent disease is a vaccine, if any.

It seems that the great awareness and efforts in Israel and around the world do contribute to a more intelligent use of existing drugs, however, remember that antibiotics are not a “miracle cure”, they only help with an acute bacterial infectious disease. Improper use of antibiotics can become a “double-edged sword” and in fact further increase the problem of resistance.

By Editor

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