Facts About Antibiotic Resistance

Disease-causing microbes that have become resistant to drug therapy are an increasing public health problem. Tuberculosis, gonorrhea, malaria, and childhood ear infections are just a few of the diseases that have become hard to treat with antibiotic drugs.

Though food-producing animals are given antibiotic drugs for important therapeutic, disease prevention or production reasons, these drugs can cause microbes to become resistant to drugs used to treat human illness, ultimately making some human sicknesses harder to treat.

About 70 percent of bacteria that cause infections in hospitals are resistant to at least one of the drugs most commonly used to treat infections. Some organisms are resistant to all approved antibiotics and must be treated with experimental and potentially toxic drugs.

Some research has shown that antibiotics are given to patients more often than guidelines set by federal and other healthcare organizations recommend. For example, patients sometimes ask their doctors for antibiotics for a cold, cough, or the flu, all of which are viral and don't respond to antibiotics. Also, patients who are prescribed antibiotics but don't take the full dosing regimen can contribute to resistance.

Unless antibiotic resistance problems are detected as they emerge, and actions are taken to contain them, the world could be faced with previously treatable diseases that have again become untreatable, as in the days before antibiotics were developed. This is not a pleasant health scenario.

What to do?

1.) The basic rule is to avoid using antibiotics unnecessarily.
2.) Take your meds until the bottle is empty, or however long your doctor specifies.
3.) Ask your doctor if he/she is prescribing the most specific antibiotic possible. Targeted, or "narrow-spectrum," antibiotics will kill the offending bug without sparking resistance among other bacteria living in the patient, as broader-spectrum drugs might.
4.) Be logical and use the common antibiotics first. If they work, there will be no need to expose the bugs to more exotic drugs, which serve as a second line of defense.
5.) Consider reducing the widespread use of antibiotics in animal feeds.