Discouraging Antibiotic Abuse

What do we mean when we say “Antibiotic resistance” and why the phobia?

Antibiotics, in a simple term, are originally therapeutic agent of microbial origin, meaning they are produced by one microorganism as a defense response, thereby having some selective advantage over others. Antibiotics are majorly used to treat bacterial infections and not viruses, as the latter is regarded as a non-cellular and non-living entity.

Unlike the first antibiotic produced purely by a fungus – Penicillium notatum, many others are either completely or partially manufactured in the laboratory; referred to as synthetic or semi-synthetic respectively.

In every situation, when an antibiotic is used, it is expected to have some effect on the invading organism, known as pathogen (disease-causing organism), either to inhibit its growth (biostatic drugs) or entirely annihilate it (biocidal drugs). Since the death of the organism do not occur in the former, the body immune system is intended to clear off the rest; while the latter is favourable for immunocompromised individuals (such as babies and elderly or seriously-sick or at risk individuals).

Regrettably, because it is not effectively regulated and anyone – I mean just ANYONE – can get it over-the-counter at the slightest of any discomfort, the 20th century “wonder drugs” hitherto turned to confectionery. That, which is expected to kill, strengthens; and antibiotic resistant set in, in front of our noses. It isn’t news to hear that new “superbugs” are discovered here and there.

Although antimicrobial resistance can occur spontaneously (naturally to some extent), however many are as a result of human activities. We are inviting resistance ourselves! Not only are these drugs use, misuse, and abuse in hospital settings, but also grossly overused in animal care to fatten them up, simply to maximize profit (growth promotion). In fact, more than the average percent of antibiotic produced in the United States alone goes to this pool.

How then won’t there be resistance? We are not only consuming resistant organisms via our foods, drinking water, our environment; but also transmitting these resistant organism between person to person through coughing, talking, sneezing, touching and what have you. Also note that microbes can transfer these resistant traits among themselves via sex (conjugation), pick up entirely from the environment (transformation) or through an intermediary phage (transduction).

When we say antibiotic resistance, we don’t mean that your body is resistant to antibiotic, no, but rather it is the pathogenic organism housed in your body that is. Simply put, the organisms are not responding to the pharmaceutical drugs as they should; they aren’t susceptible to the therapeutic dose any longer.

For this reason, it is not far reaching to use an antibiotic for a particular illness and such would seem not treatable. Why? It is likely that the disease-causing organism is exhibiting some mechanism of resistance on one hand, or the individual is using wrong medication as a result of self-prescription or any other. In part, this act can lead to the extermination of friendly microbes keeping balance of invaders in your body, thus, exposing it to potential foes.

Know definitely that, whenever an antibiotic is used, it either kills its target or renders it useless. Either way, it must achieve something: kill or empower!

Due to our irrational and inappropriate use of these resource-limited drugs, we have consequently and successfully invited these pathogens that withstand all sorts of antibiotics. It is even more worrisome that since the last 30 years no new registered classes of antibiotics were recorded and resistance to already known drugs is ever increasing.

At the moment, Antibiotic resistance (ABR) is killing about 700, 000 people globally. And if this continues, without any preemptive action, it is predicted that by 2050, ABR would account for 10 million deaths the world over – that is, a person would continue to die every three (3) seconds. And Africa, unfortunately, is projected to bear the second largest hit, after Asia. This is because of inadequate monitoring and surveillance study in these continents.

At our own advantage, the earlier we put an end to this gustatory sensation about antibiotics, the better. If it doesn’t kill us now, it would later; and affect to a larger extent the generation to come.


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