A practical guide for nutritional and traditional health care.

Bacterial Resistance To Antibiotics

While the multi-resistant bacteria keep on multiplying and developing, the medical community is finding itself confronted with an increasing number of possibly incurable ailments. And significantly enough, the medical community itself is partially responsible for the current state of affairs. Misuse as well as over-prescribing antibiotics - for instance, their attempt to cure viral infections using antibiotics - goes on with adding to the growth of more and more dangerous bacteria.

Bacterial resistance

It was obvious even throughout the initial stages of developing antibiotic drugs that a number of bacteria had the aptitude to stay alive as well as reproduce despite the presence of antibiotics. In effect, these bacteria had been able to attain endurance to the consequences of those antibiotic drugs.

Way back in 1945, Alexander Fleming, in an interview with The New York Times, had cautioned that abuse or misuse of penicillin might result in the selection as well as multiplication of malformed resistant bacteria. At that time, Fleming had also forecast that the menace relating to antibiotic resistance was likely to become worse provided penicillin was available in oral form, in the event of giving insufficient doses, if patients were given prolonged course of penicillin or even if the healing with penicillin was not done properly. So, now the pertinent question is how serious is the antibiotic-resistance predicament.

During the early days of the 1980s, several hospitals in Melbourne were inundated with infections that were able to endure nearly every known antibiotic drug. The microorganism that was responsible for the problem that led to the death of several patients in the hospitals was a bacterium known as Staphylococcus aureus. This condition signifies one of the most serious resistance problems. It gave rise to such apprehensions among people working in the hospitals that several of them wore masks at work. The bacteria could not only endure antibiotic drugs, but also antiseptics, which made them virtually impossible to eliminate. In such as situation there was only one antibiotic that was still effective - vancomycin, a medication that is not only expensive, but also toxic. However, as the doctors did not have any other alternative, they were compelled to use it. This way, they were finally able to bring the infections in the hospitals under control.

This case occurred in the 1980s. Presently, even vancomycin resistance is a reality. However, this only occurs in the case of a dissimilar group of bacteria known as Enterococci. We are also aware that these bacteria have the ability to transfer their resistance power to Staphylococcus aureus - the microorganism responsible for the infections in hospitals. In other words, this denotes that very soon even Staphylococcus would attain resistance to vancomycin. In such an event, it would really be impossible to treat hospital-based infections, which occurred in Melbourne, using antibiotic medicaments.

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Therefore, it is now obvious that we are confronting a possibly disastrous situation. It is a reality that there is an infection that is incurable using the means we have now. According to a number of microbiologists, this could happen in just a matter of months, may a couple of years at the maximum.

Why do bacteria build up resistance?

Honestly speaking, the menace of extensive bacterial resistance is one that we are ourselves responsible. The reason behind bacteria developing resistance to antibiotic drugs is just an issue of the microorganisms' effort to survive. Nevertheless, by overusing antibiotic drugs, we have only aggravated the bacteria's need to combat for life to such an extent that the reality of bacterial resistance have turned out to be worrying.

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The resistance of bacteria to antibiotics is not a recent happening. In fact, this problem has been there since the time bacteria came to existence, but then it was at an extremely low level. For instance, we may observe this in soil where fungi and bacteria cohabit. However, such coexistence is not completely harmonious. In effect, bacteria and fungi fight with one another for space as well as resources in the soil. Fungi contend with bacteria by means of generating antibiotics. (For instance, you might recall that several antibiotics were initially isolated from soil samples enclosing fungi). In their quest for survival, bacteria have developed a means of shielding themselves from these natural antibiotics. In effect, they have developed resistance to these natural antibiotics. Therefore, resistance is a normal survival mechanism of the bacteria.

Now the question is that if bacterial resistance to antibiotics has existed for all time, why it has become so extensive now. And why it is being perceived as such a grave threat. Precisely speaking, the answer to these queries lie in the manner we have actually dealt with the use of commercially available antibiotic drugs. In some cases, we have used them excessively, while in other instances, we have underused them. In some other conditions, we have used these antibiotic drugs wrongly. Generally speaking, we have misused the antibiotics grossly and owing to such misuse we have only helped to support the continuous development of bacterial resistance to these medicaments.

When it comes to prescribing antibiotic drugs randomly, it is not only the physicians and patients who are to be blamed. Even the pharmacists and the governments are equally responsible for over-prescription of antibiotics. In several under-developed nations, antibiotic drugs are still easily available over-the-counter without any prescription. This definitely results in the misuse of these drugs and eventually aid in promoting the bacterial resistance to them.

For a long time now, antibiotics have even been included in animal feeds. In effect, livestock, especially cattle and pigs, are provided with large doses of antibiotics in the form of growth enhancers as well as to cure certain health conditions suffered by them. Eventually, these animals as well as their products, such as meat or dairy products like milk and cheese, are sold from the supermarkets and when people consume them, unknowingly they also intake plenty of antibiotics unnecessarily.

In effect, the bacteria present in these animals have a propensity to be multi-resistant. In other words, they have the aptitude to resist or endure several antibiotics concurrently. Direct contact with these animals, consuming contaminated food or by means of the soil, which also contains feces of animals, often infect the multi-resistance of humans. Precisely speaking, any type of close interaction between the humans and animals has the possibility of altering the bacterial flora in either group. It may be noted here that 'flora' denoted the bacterial population that lines the skin as well as the cavities of the body, counting the digestive and respiratory tracts. Therefore, the resistant bacteria have the aptitude to spread from the animals to the humans by means of handling or feeding on them.

It is important that the over-the-counter sales of antibiotics for the farming community ought to be stopped with immediate effect if we desire to bring the bacterial resistance somewhat under control. It should be made mandatory that all antibiotics are administered by veterinary surgeons and, like in the case of the humans, they should only be the last option for animals too. In fact, currently numerous wonderful and effective homeopathic remedies are available for animals and they might be used instead of antibiotics.

It is a well known fact that using measured doses of penicillin and tetracycline helps to improve the growth of livestock. As a result, farmers give very large amounts of antibiotics to commercial livestock with a view to augment their growth compared to the antibiotic doses generally used to cure infections. In fact, even given small doses of antibiotics on a continuous basis may facilitate bacterial resistance, since the bacteria devise their individual ways of prevailing over the consequences of antibiotics rather than being eliminated by the drugs. It may be mentioned that while most regions in Europe have completely banned the use of penicillin and tetracycline as growth enhancers for livestock, the United States as well as other countries are still lagging behind in this direction. With the bacterial resistance becoming an increasingly worrisome problem, this issue should be immediately taken up and dealt with worldwide.

Although many may not be aware, antibiotics are also included in the food of our pets. According to one research, the feces of about 70 per cent of dogs contain strains of multi-resistant E. coli - a bacterium which is a common constituent in the bowel of most animals, counting humans. Some of the bacteria contained in the feces of the dogs are actually resistant to two or even more antibiotics. This may possibly be owing to the fact that a number of antibiotics are included in dog foods available commercially as growth enhancers. And, it is well known, that adding even small amounts of antibiotics continuously have the potential to develop bacterial resistance.

In effect, bacteria possess the aptitude to develop resistance to nearly all drugs to which they are exposed to. Today, bacterial resistance is intimidating the ability to treat infections, not only in humans, but also in animals. Adding antibiotics in the foods of animals with a view to augment the growth of livestock, especially cattle and pigs, is greatly responsible for the persistence as well as increase of bacterial resistance. The bacteria contained in the bowels of commercial animals, such as cattle, sheep and pigs, and also in pets like dogs and cats are resistant to several types of antibiotics.

It may be noted that today antibiotic resistance has become a global issue which requires the cooperation of doctors, pharmacists, veterinary surgeons, farmers and even the governments. Moreover, it is important for the educated general public to join the movement to help counter this menace.


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