Medically reviewed by Alexis Ross, PA-C
Antibiotic resistance is a major concern for public health experts and organizations around the world. According to the CDC, antibiotic resistance is a world wide health issue that has killed close to 1.27 million people worldwide and was associated with 5 million deaths in 2019, and more so has cost an additional $20 million dollars in medical expenses. Learn more about the steps you can take to prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance to keep yourself and your community safe!
What is antibiotic resistance?
Antibiotics are medicines that are used to treat bacterial infections. Antibiotic resistance occurs when germs like bacteria and fungi develop the ability to evade the drugs designed to destroy them.
You may be wondering, “How can bacteria outsmart antibiotics?” Certain bacteria are able to neutralize an antibiotic, stopping the medicines from working and ultimately making it ineffective. Others might be able to pump the antibiotics out of the bacteria, and some can even evolve to change their outer structure and receptors so that antibiotics cannot attach to them.
Why is antibiotic resistance a growing issue?
Think about a recent sick doctor visit. You are congested, you feel run down, you may even have fever. You think to yourself, if I can just get an antibiotic to help rid me of these symptoms, it will quicken my recovery time! While some symptoms are due to a bacterial infection, which will respond to antibiotics, there are times when your symptoms are caused by a virus (like in the case of the common cold). An antibiotic cannot treat a viral infection, and inappropriate prescriptions of antibiotics in these cases is one of the main ways antibiotic resistance develops! Taking antibiotics without the correct medical indicators can encourage harmful bacteria to live inside of you. Over time, these bacteria can become resistant to future antibiotic treatment and infections that should be simple and treatable (like a UTI) can become life-threatening.
Another common contributing factor occurs when patients don’t complete their prescribed course of antibiotics. So many of us have been given a 10 day course of antibiotics and find ourselves saying, I feel great by day 4, I’ll just stop taking the medicine now—especially if that medicine has side effects! This is NOT something we would ever recommend. When you stop your medicine early, you are allowing the bacteria the opportunity to multiply and come back even bigger and stronger. This is what can create a “superbug”—an infection that eventually will not respond to antibiotic treatment!
How can we help to stop antibiotic resistance?
So what can you do to help? Well there are definitely a few things to consider as individuals that may help the larger community!
- Only take antibiotics if you have been diagnosed with an infection by a licensed health professional
- Make sure to take all of your prescribed medication
- Don’t share leftover antibiotics with a friend or family member
- Help prevent infections in the first place:
- It never hurts to practice good hygiene, stay up to date on vaccinations and avoid close contact with sick people
- Practice safe sex
What are we doing at Wisp to prevent antibiotic resistance?
Here at Wisp, we take our jobs very seriously. We obtain a detailed patient medical history from our patients before diagnosing and treating a medical condition. This includes learning about our patients past medical history, medication allergies, current symptoms and of course your most recent diagnosis’ and infections. If you had a UTI last week, and you are experiencing urinary pain and discomfort one week later, we want to ensure that you are receiving the right treatment before prescribing another antibiotic. We’ll provide you with a lab slip so you can go to a lab in your area and provide a urine sample to be cultured. This result will be sent back to our clinicians, and we can make sure we know the exact bacteria you have, so we can prescribe the right antibiotic for that infection. In this way we can ensure we are treating your infection with the correct medicine and not promoting antibiotic resistance!