Antibiotic Resistance: Is this the new Global Threat?
Many antibiotics have been developed, from the time Sir Alexander Fleming inadvertently discovered the world’s first ever antibiotic, penicillin in 1928. However, with the rapid emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria, the efficacy of antibiotics has diminished.
There are many causes to antibiotic resistance such as overuse of antibiotics. Epidemiological studies have demonstrated a direct relationship between antibiotic consumption and the rise and dissemination of resistant bacteria strains. Furthermore, extensive agricultural use, where resistant bacteria is transferred from animal livestock to humans and inappropriate prescribing by doctors, has also been found to fuel the evolution of resistance to antimicrobials.
Antibiotic-resistant infections are already widespread across the globe. A 2011 national survey of infectious-disease specialists, conducted by the IDSA Emerging Infections Network, found that more than 60% of participants had seen an untreatable bacterial infection within the prior year.
Research into the therapeutic utility of herbal medicine is occurring in the UK, and could be a possible alternative to antibiotics, in the fight against resistant bacteria. Plant extracts have great potential as antimicrobial compounds against microorganisms, as they act through different mechanisms in comparison to conventional antibiotics and help management of symptoms of certain infections, e.g. cough.
However, herbal medicine treatment requires further research and strict quality control in order to guarantee product consistency and efficacy, before national distribution.
Given the wide-spread and expanding nature of the antimicrobial resistance threat, difficulties in the identification and regulatory approval of new classes of antibiotics, as well as the ability of bacterial pathogens to adapt to an antibiotic and evolve, relying on the discovery of new antibiotics alone cannot be the sole effective and sustainable strategy for addressing this global threat.
More preventive measures are encouraged to be taken, such as improvements in hand-hygiene compliance and effective sanitization, which would prevent the spread of infection and thus reduce the reliance of antibiotics.
Nevertheless, antibiotic resistance is universal and can affect anyone, at any age and in any country and misuse is worsening the situation globally. Urgent action is needed and must involve government intervention.
Public health education and changes in behaviour are critical as we enter a new world where even the simplest of infections can kill, as we know too well with COVID-19.
Milad Rouf Final Year Medical Student, Cardiff University.
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