Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria adapt or evolve to survive antibiotic treatment. This is a significant problem because antibiotics may lose their effectiveness.
Bacteria are single-celled organisms found in all environments. Bacteria can exist inside and outside other organisms. Some bacteria can cause infections when they enter a person’s body and multiply there. There are many types of bacterial infections that can affect different parts of the body. If a person has a bacterial infection, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics, which are medicines that fight bacterial infections. They do this by killing the bacteria or preventing it from multiplying. While antibiotics can be effective against bacteria, they do not treat other pathogens, such as viruses. In this article we will see what antibiotic resistance is, how it occurs and what are the strategies to prevent it.
Definition of antibiotic resistance
In some situations, infectious bacteria can adapt or mutate in response to antibiotic use. The bacteria can then no longer react to the antibiotics. Thus, some antibiotics may no longer be effective in treating certain strains of bacteria. The resistant bacterial strain can then multiply and spread to other people. These people can then use antibiotics to treat their infection. However, the resistance of the strain to antibiotics will make the treatment less effective or cause it to fail. Thus, bacterial infections may not resolve and serious complications may occur.
How does antibiotic resistance occur?
Many adaptations or mutations can occur within bacteria to help them resist antibiotics. It can be:
Restrict access to the antibiotic: Bacteria can adapt to change entry routes or limit the number of entry routes the antibiotic can use to enter the bacteria. This may include the use of outer membranes to prevent antibiotic drugs from entering the bacteria.
Removal of the antibiotic: Some bacteria can use pumps in the cell walls to remove antibiotic drugs that enter the cell.
Altering or destroying the antibiotic: Some bacteria can use enzymes or proteins to break down the antibiotic. This can modify or destroy it, thus rendering it ineffective.
Changing antibiotic targets: Many antibiotics target and destroy specific parts of certain bacteria, called targets. Some bacteria can adapt to change the antibiotic’s target so that the drug can no longer work.
Bypassing the effects of the antibiotic: Some bacteria can develop new cellular processes. This can help the bacteria avoid using the antibiotic’s target, rendering the drug ineffective.
Bacteria that survive the use of antibiotics have resistance characteristics in their DNA that they can pass on when they multiply. They can also transmit these characteristics to other bacteria. When a person needs antibiotic treatment, the health benefits usually outweigh the risk of antibiotic resistance.
However, too often people take antibiotics when they shouldn’t. The overuse of antibiotics can jeopardize the usefulness of these drugs.
Complications of antibiotic resistance
Antibiotic resistance can reduce the effectiveness of antibiotic drugs. Bacterial infections due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria can then be difficult to treat. In some people, they may be untreatable. If a person has an infection with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, they may need expensive and sometimes toxic alternative treatments.
Other complications of antibiotic resistance may include:
longer hospital stays for people with bacterial infections
an increased mortality rate for people with bacterial infections.
What are the most threatening germs?
Healthcare professionals have recorded antibiotic resistance associated with almost all antibiotics. Some bacterial infections pose a significant threat due to the severity of the infection and its frequency.
Here are some of the bacteria that pose the greatest threats to people due to their resistance to antibiotics:
Enterobacteriaceae are a family of bacteria that can cause serious infections of:
These bacteria can also cause pneumonia. Some of these bacteria have developed resistance to almost all available antibiotics, making these infections difficult to treat.
Neisseria gonorrhoeae (N. gonorrhoeae)
N. gonorrhoeae is a species of bacteria that causes the sexually transmitted infection (STI), gonorrhea. Not all of these infections are drug resistant, but N. gonorrhoeae has developed resistance to almost every antibiotic used by doctors to treat the infection.
Acinetobacter is a group of bacteria commonly found in soil and water. This group of bacteria can cause infections in the..:
the urinary tract
Acinetobacter infections commonly occur in patients in healthcare facilities and intensive care units. These infections usually affect people
whose immune system is weakened
suffering from chronic lung disease
with open sores
who use breathing machines or catheters
Antibiotic resistance means that at least three different classes of antibiotics can no longer cure Acinetobacter infections.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa)
P. aeruginosa bacteria can cause mild illnesses, such as ear infections and skin rashes. However, if a person has a weakened immune system, they can develop serious infections in their bloodstream or get pneumonia. This can happen in people who are hospitalized with wounds from surgery or who use breathing machines or catheters. Some strains of P. aeruginosa are resistant to most or all antibiotics. This makes these infections dangerous and difficult to treat.
Salmonella is a type of bacteria that can cause:
Some strains of Salmonella are resistant to antibiotics, which can make infections worse. The most serious Salmonella infections can spread to a person’s bloodstream and be life threatening.
How to fight against antibiotic resistance?
The following factors contribute to antibiotic resistance:
misuse of antibiotics
overuse of antibiotics
poor infection prevention and control
There are a number of things individuals can do to help prevent and control antibiotic resistance, including:
only use antibiotics prescribed by a certified healthcare professional
never asking for antibiotics if a medical professional says they don’t need them
always follow the advice of a healthcare professional when using antibiotics, including taking them for the full length of time prescribed
avoid sharing or using leftover antibiotics
wash your hands regularly
prepare food hygienically
avoid close contact with sick people
practicing safe sex
keep vaccinations up to date
Antibiotics are medicines taken to treat bacterial infections. Some bacteria can adapt or mutate to survive antibiotic treatment. These bacteria can then multiply and transmit their resistance to antibiotics to the newly formed cells. Bacterial infections due to antibiotic resistant bacteria can be difficult to treat. These infections can also be passed from person to person and antibiotic resistance spreads. A person can take steps to help prevent and control antibiotic resistance by only using antibiotics when prescribed by a doctor and always following the advice of a medical professional when using them.