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Are we heading towards post-antibiotic era?

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

While celebrating global antimicrobial resistance week between 18-24 November, I wonder what the need was? The antibiotics are formulated to save us from infections; how are we supposed to treat ourselves if antibiotics are ineffective? Here, you will get answers to all your questions and know more about antibiotics and their use.

What are antibiotics?

In medical terms, antibiotics are medicines (like penicillin or its derivatives) consumed to fight against infection and destruction or inhibition of growth of infection-causing microorganisms. The idea of using chemicals called ‘magic bullet’ as the antimicrobial compound was first proposed in 1908 by Ehrlich, who used SilverSan against a sexually transmitted disease known as syphilis.

What are the types of antibiotics?

Even though hundreds of different types of antibiotics are available in the market, there are few main groups of antibiotics based on which other antibiotics are derived.

  1. Penicillin

  2. Cephalosporins

  3. Macrolides

  4. Fluoroquinolones

  5. Tetracyclines

  6. Aminoglycosides

  7. Quinolones

  8. Nitrofurans

  9. Sulphonamides

  10. Trimethoprim

  11. Oxazolidinone

  12. Pleuromutilins

  13. Lincosamides

  14. Phosphonic acids

  15. Peptide antibiotics

  16. Ionophores

  17. Steroid antibiotics

What is threatening the global efforts against antimicrobial resistance?

Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of the microbes to acquire resistance mechanisms against the antibiotics either through Vertical & horizontal gene transfer or mutation in their genome. Due to this resistance, the antibiotics (beta-lactam or other main groups of antibiotics) that were supposed to treat us against the pathogen infection are no longer effective; thus, proliferating bacteria can increase the severity of diseases, which is a matter of concern.

Well, this is not the end because it’s not only the threatening antimicrobial resistance against available antibiotics but also the lack of innovation in the development of new antibiotics that are the reason for panic among the global workers trying to combat drug-resistant infections. According to WHO, “Declining private investment and lack of innovation in the development of new antibiotics are undermining efforts to combat drug-resistant infections”.

While we are slow in developing novel antibiotics, history shows that bacteria quickly produce resistance against them. As per the available data, the miraculous discovery of penicillin was in 1943 and saved many people’s lives against the infection, which were life-threatening before its discovery. Nevertheless, the pathogens developed counter mechanisms against penicillin within the two years of its discovery in 1945. Similarly, Vancomycin was discovered in 1972, and vancomycin resistance arrived in 1988; resistance against Imipenem was seen in 1998 while it was found in 1985; whereas resistance against newly discovered antibiotics Daptomycin (2003) acquired by pathogens within one year of discovery, i.e., 2004. Ultimately, it looks like we are on the verge of post antibiotics era, where millions of people dying to the failure of antibiotics to cure infections.

Scarry right!!!!!

Particularly when we all face the ill effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we would want the emergence of any other hidden pandemic. Although stopping the COVID-19pandemic wasn’t in our hands, we can diminish the effect of this hidden silently emerging pandemic of AMR with suitable measures. Before understanding the solution, let’s understand the problem.

The antimicrobial resistance acquired by pathogens due to the following reasons:

  1. Reckless, uncontrolled overuse of antibiotics in livestock’s, poultry farms, agriculture, and aquaculture due to its inexpensive availability

  2. Lack of hygiene and sanitation in case of both human beings and animals

  3. Lack of awareness, poor law enforcement against the use of antibiotics

  4. Increasing load of pathogens developing resistance to antibiotics in the gut of humans as well as animals

  5. Contamination of water bodies with the faecal matter of humans and animals

  6. Improper pharmaceutical and clinical waste disposals

  7. Lack of enough antibiotics and diagnostic tests

Although you are not consuming antibiotics directly, still, your gut is full of antibiotic-resistant microbes through the vegetables, meat, and fish you are eating.

What are the prevention measures?

  1. The responsible officials should follow the National action plans formulated for combating the AMR.

  2. Since antibiotic resistance is a natural process and can be slowdown not eradicated; therefore, it’s crucial to develop new drugs and diagnostic measures.

  3. Understanding the severity, instead of using pest controls, one should keep its surroundings clean to prevent drug-resistant parasites such as malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases.

  4. Avoid drug-resistant infection through immunization, safe food preparation, sanitation and use antibiotics only when needed.

  5. Do not consume the antibiotics strip having a red line without consulting a doctor.

  6. Since half of the antibiotics used in humans and animals are unnecessary, everyone should pledge to use only to treat disease and complete the entire course of medication. Taking half medication is one of the biggest reasons for developing resistance in the gut of the human being.

  7. The growers should be obliged to minimize the overuse of antimicrobial in all, whether vegetables, aquaculture, or raising while livestock or poultry birds.

  8. Make sure the meat and vegetables you are buying are antibiotics free or under determining limits.

In short, we all must take small steps for the more significant change, i.e., diminishing the antimicrobial resistance. These small contributions, small behavioural changes, and awareness can save us from heading towards the “post antibiotics era”.

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