There has been much in the news about antibiotic resistance. Many of the articles that have been written are full of medical-speak, making it hard to understand exactly what is going on. What we do know is this: Antibiotics have been prescribed at such a high rate that diseases are developing resistance to them. In other words, it is taking stronger antibiotics or different drugs altogether to fight diseases that were once somewhat easily treated. Here’s what else we know.
The overuse and misuse of antibiotic medication has promoted the development of bacteria that are resistant to it. When you take an antibiotic, the bacteria that is sensitive to it is killed while resistant bacteria grow. This is why the repeated use of antibiotics is a problem.
There are several ways that bacteria become resistant to antibiotics. Some neutralize the medication, others remove it before it can do them harm. Some bacteria change their structure so that the antibiotic has no way to attach itself. When one bacterium is resistant, that bacterium multiplies, creating a whole host of resistant bacteria.
Antibiotics have their place and should not be avoided altogether. That said, have a frank discussion with your doctor. Let them know you are concerned about antibiotic resistance and find out if there are other ways you can feel better. If you are prescribed an antibiotic, take it as your doctor instructed. If you have any left over, discard them properly. Do not take an antibiotic for a viral infection, and do not push your doctor to prescribe them to you if he or she doesn’t feel they are warranted.
The over-prescribing of antibiotics has not yet met the standards of medical malpractice but it may. Doctors should be diligent in their use of the medications and offer alternatives whenever possible.
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