Written by Gurminder for Doctify
Ever heard about superbugs or antibiotic resistance in the news? Do you know what it means?
Antibiotics are normally taken to fight the bacteria that might be causing an infection in a person’s body, hence the prefix anti. Sometimes bacteria can become stronger and resistant to one or more antibiotics; they have become superbugs.
The first antibacterial treatment was called arsphenamine (salvarsan) and was introduced in early 1900s to treat syphilis before it was superseded by the well-known penicillin. Penicillin’s antibacterial properties were first observed in 1928 by Alexander Fleming where bacteria growth was observed to be inhibited by secretions coming from some green mould. About ten years later, a team at Oxford began work on synthesising a stable and distributable type of penicillin. It is still used today however there are more and more bacteria that are becoming resistant to it, meaning that penicillin and other antibiotics have no effect and cannot kill them.
A bacterium that is resistant to many antibiotics is known as a superbug. When someone with a weak immune system is infected by a superbug, the infection can become very serious illness since their body will be unable to fight it, and taking a range of accessible antibiotics doesn’t actually help. That’s why superbug strains such as MRSA causes severe illnesses when spreading in a hospital environment. If this trend of resistance continues, soon bacterial illnesses that are easily treated, such as the tonsillitis, will become deadly. Standard treatments that increase the risk of infections such as for cancer and surgery will also be dangerous. The BBC has put together a guide to superbugs and antibacterial resistance.
The increase in antibiotic resistance is said to be because of overuse and wrongly prescribed antibiotics. Wrong prescriptions can come from common misconception among the public, such as the use of antibiotics if you have the flu or the common cold. Antibiotics cannot kill theses illnesses because influenza and the common cold are actually caused by viruses. Recently hitting the headlines is the news that some farmed animals receive twice the amount of antibiotics than that of a human. It is believed that these super high dosages and the fact that they inject all the animals regardless if they have an infection or not encourages the growth of resistant bacteria strains. These bacteria can then be potentially transferred to humans through consumption.
There are a few things we as humans can do to try and stop the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria. The public have called on KFC to stop using injected chickens through a 30,000 strong petition which their competitors Chick-fil-A have promised to do by 2017. To prevent catching infections or spreading one that you have practise good hand hygiene and regular hand washing. Finally, you can double check with your doctor whether antibiotics are really needed, your body should be able to fight the infection if your immune system is strong enough. See a GP if you think you have an infection.