Causes of Antibiotic Resistance

Topic: HealthDrunk Driving
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Last updated: April 16, 2019

A medical concern once thought to be a problem for physicians now claims the consumers of medical treatment are at fault for the developing situation an of antibiotic resistance.

  Fingers used to be pointed at the physicians for prescribing so many antibiotics or the wrong ones, or prescribing when not necessary.  Now the focus has turned to the patients looking for a quick fix to every ailment.  As cold and flu season arrives yearly, patients line physician offices waiting to be seen for coughs, sore throats, and headaches.  Some of these ailments will be viral and some bacterial.  Even though viral ailments cannot be healed with an antibiotic, patients will still ask for one, hoping it will help.  Physicians often feel the overwhelming pressure to satisfy their patients.  Antibiotics have become an important part of medical care since their discovery in the 1940s; the medical profession is now capable of curing many conditions that were previously fatal.

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  Today, prescription medication has become the standard treatment for most infections; however, consumers frequently overuse and misuse antibiotics, causing the development of antibiotic resistance to bacteria.One of the biggest factors leading to the development of antibiotic resistance is overuse of the substance.  As the winter season progresses, influenza reaches its peak, and with this comes physicians’ offices flooded with anxious patients and parents awaiting their turn at a chance for relief.  Unfortunately, this is usually in the form of a prescription of an antibiotic.

  A recent study conducted by Perez et al., reported that over fifty percent of streptococcus pneumonia (strep throat) was resistant in children due to overuse of antibiotics.  Physicians in this study were educated in regard to the resistance of antibiotics and they were educated in reducing antibiotic prescriptions; they ultimately reduced their number of written antibiotic prescriptions (3103).

Physicians often claim that patients and parents are persistently asking for an antibiotic prescription.  Many feel that they will benefit from a quicker recovery if they take antibiotics.  Tortora states that in the United States, “30% of antibiotic prescriptions for ear infections, 100% of prescriptions for the common cold, and 50% of prescriptions for sore throats were unnecessary “(583).  Many times, patients are suffering from a viral infection, but antibiotics don’t work on viral infections like they do on bacterial infections.  A common mistake is prescribing antibiotics for viral infections at the urging of the patient.  The antibiotic will not fight the infection, but will increase the resistance of future antibacterial antibiotic treatments.To understand this fully, a basic knowledge is needed related to the disease-causing organisms along with the role antibiotics play in fighting infections.

  There are two types of germs that cause disease – bacteria and viruses.  Bacteria are living, single-celled organisms that cause illness by invading healthy human or animal cells, making toxins, or multiplying into clumps that interfere with normal body processes.  While viruses are not full cells, but simply pieces, they are not capable of existing without invading other cells and living off the host cells’ resources.  Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections; this is because antibiotics act to break down the protective cell wall, causing death to the cell.  Viruses do not contain a cell wall; therefore, antibiotics do not exert any action on viruses.  Since bacteria are normally under a controlled growth process in our bodies naturally, with every single exposed to antibiotics, they begin to develop their own ways of becoming resistant to them, and once they have discovered sways to resist antibiotics, they are able to pass resistance to other types of bacteria.  Thus, it is extremely important to attempt to decrease antibiotic use for viral infections.

Another possible cause of development of resistant bacteria is antibiotic misuse.  The major problem is with those patients who do not follow their physician’s directions and take the correct amount of antibiotic at the right time and those who do not finish out their full dose of treatment.  Antibiotics are generally prescribed for seven to ten days, but many people will begin to feel better after about five days of taking an antibiotic; therefore, they quit taking the medication.

Totora reports that resistance is often a result of not finishing the course of antibiotics, and in treatment of tuberculosis, the full course is only taken “75%” of the time (440).  Frequently, patients will save the remaining antibiotic for future use, thinking that they can avoid going to the doctor if they once again fall ill.  The problem with this habit is that a shortened course of antibiotics will kill only the most vulnerable bacteria, allowing the stronger and more resistant bacteria to survive and flourish.  The bacteria that survive the limited exposure begin to work to develop resistance to subsequent exposures; consequently, if the same antibiotic is prescribed again, it may prove to work less effectively.

  Only the complete dose of prescribed antibiotic will kill all of the harmful bacteria.There are several other contributing factors associated with antibiotic resistance that most consumers do not even consider or realize.  The Hospital Infection Control cites overuse of antibiotic in animal feed as a large contributing factor to resistance that may no be present for many years (110).

  Antibiotics are fed to animals to promote rapid growth as well as to treat illness.  These antibiotics are given in very large doses to decrease the normal bacteria in the stomach of the animal.  Thus, when the meat is consumed, the large mounts of antibiotics are passed on through the food chain.  Many households are also contributing to antibiotic resistance by the use of antibacterial cleaning agents, including wipes and hand soaps.The consequences related to antibiotic resistance affect the health of everyone; the question arises if one will again see bacterial conditions proving fatal due to the resistance to all available antibiotics.  Today, one sees infections becoming harder to treat, including the germs that cause pneumonia, urinary tract infections, many ear infections, skin infections, and bacterial meningitis.

  There are also resistant strains that have developed such as Vancomycin Resistan Enterococcus (VRE) that was first discovered in the late 1980s and Methicillin Resistan dStaphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) (Burke 1270).Although medical technology is working to develop new treatments for resistant bacteria, the process of developing, testing, and approving new drugs takes many years.  For now, the best way to slow the growth of resistant strains of bacteria is to discontinue the practice of misuse and abuse.  Therefore, it is not only the responsibility of the physician, but also the patient to provide a joint effort to improve the longevity of the antibiotics available today.

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