What Happens if Antibiotics Don’t Work Anymore?



In the pre-antibiotic era, small cuts or mild infections killed many. In the 20th century, the average life expectancy was below 40 worldwide. Those who got infected would have ridiculously high fever, chills, organ failure and then death. Most people in that era didn’t die of hypertension or diabetes; they didn’t live that long to acquire such – they died from knife wounds and gunshot wounds during duels or at war.

This all changed dramatically with the introduction of antibiotics by Alexander Fleming in 1942 which changed everything medically. Antibiotics are a type of antimicrobial drug used in the treatment and prevention of bacterial infections.

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Fast forward many years after Fleming’s discovery and we are on the verge of an epidemic called “antibiotic resistance”. Infectious diseases are gradually getting ways to survive in their hosts (humans), gradually pushing into a dangerous situation where only newer generation antibiotics are effective. These brands are usually expensive and not readily available to the populace.

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Actually, this cat-and-mouse relationship between bacteria and pharmaceuticals has been on for many years. Develop a new antibiotic, the bacteria get resistant to the antibiotic and the drug no longer is effective. This, however, is a man-made problem, as professionals, pharma companies and patients all have roles to play in managing this scourge.

Causative factors

A myriad of issues contribute to the antibiotic resistance plague. Fortunately, they are preventable, they include:

Wrong diagnosis

Poor compliance

Counterfeit medicines

Poor compliance

Drug abuse

Physicians and pharmacists can play significant roles in controlling antibiotics use, as they prescribe medicines for and counsel patients respectively. In America, for example, 45 per cent of prescribed antibiotics are unnecessary. In Nigeria the figures aren’t available, antibiotics are taken as over-the-counter medications in some pharmacies (especially patent medicine stores), hawked by drug merchants and sold indiscriminately in open drug markets. These sickening acts might culminate in a terrifying post-antibiotic era if proper sensitisation care is not taken.

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Compliance is key to treating bacterial infections as wrong or incomplete use can trigger the resistance bug.  For example, antibiotics to be used every eight hours, must be taken so, as this will ensure that the maximum dose needed to kill the bacteria is always available. Avoid using double the dose when a particular dose is forgotten or missed. It is ideal to consult a pharmacist in case of a missed dose. You may be provided with portable pill boxes to ensure you don’t miss any dose.

Counterfeit or adulterated medicines lead to bad therapeutic outcomes, which worsen antibiotic resistance. Patients must patronise registered pharmacies to get their medicines to ensure they do not fall victim of this epidemic.

Owners of farm animals add antibiotics into their feed to help prevent infections and illness. We eventually eat this meat and further add to flaming issue of resistance.

Taking precautions

Penicillin was first introduced in 1943 but became resistant in 1945. Bacteria develops resistance so quickly that we all must ensure we don’t get to the point where out of over 100 antibiotics available in the market, only two will work. This would be very costly.

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The constant development of resistance by bacteria has led to massive investment by pharmaceutical companies to curb this menace. To ensure these discoveries and investments aren’t futile, we must control our indiscriminate use of antibiotics as individuals, on a national and global level. Lawmakers must formulate laws against illegal prescribing and dispensing of antibiotics.

Pharmacists must resist the drive to dispense or sell antibiotics without proper authorisations or prescriptions. Prescribers must ascertain the need to give antibiotics after proper tests have been carried out.

Now that you know, you must act to stamp out antibiotic resistance in our society, nation and world at large.

By Pharm. Ayodeji Oni

(Freelancing for Advantage Health Africa)



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