Simply put, antibiotics are medicines for the treatment and prevention of infections that are caused by bacteria.
Peeping into some worldwide statistics:
- Researchers from Princeton University studying the global trends of antibiotic consumption between 2000 and 2010 showed that India is the leading consumer of antibiotics in the world. In 2010, India is estimated to have consumed 12.9 billion antibiotic pills. In comparison, China only consumed 10 billion pills, and the US had 6.8 billion.
- Every year about 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics in the U.S. .and about 23,000 of these people die as a result of it.
So what exactly is Antibiotic resistance & how does it develop in humans?
Antibiotic resistance is an evolutionary response resulting from gross their gross overuse. The drug kills most of the susceptible microbes. However, microbes that have gone through genetic variation and managed to resist certain death are now immune to these medicines. These resistant bacterial species multiply and are thus impossible to kill with further treatment of antibiotics.
For example, if you have an infection and are given a broad-spectrum antibiotic, upon absorption into the gut, it will enter the bloodstream. It travels through
the lungs, mouth, throat, stomach, skin, ears, and vagina destroying bacteria that come in its way. The susceptible bacteria is destroyed but the resistance species remain. They now have less competition and so begin to multiply rapidly. It spread in two different ways. - Vertical transmission: growth of already resistant species the same way genes are transferred from our grandparents to us. The genes of these bacteria also get passed on.
Another way is through sex or horizontal transmission which enables them to gain or swap genes that confer resistance to antibiotics.
Antibiotic resistance is now a huge threat in developed and developing countries of the world. This is largely due to the irresponsible way they are frequently prescribed for minor infections which are capable of getting better in a few days without any treatment. The common cold which is a viral infection is also sometimes treated with antibiotics. Some patients also do not finish the course given by doctors once they begin to feel better. Today there are many pathogenic bacteria resistant to more than one antibiotic. The new ones being developed are expensive and out of reach for many who cannot afford them. This is a vicious cycle that has been created by the overuse of the drug. While they are lifesaving, they need to be used with caution and only when absolutely needed.