Drug-resistant Infections: A Growing Threat

WHO has identified antibiotic overuse as one of the world’s most pressing health issues. Drug-resistant infections, which are on the rise, can be difficult and in some cases impossible to treat. This is a serious concern, as it could cause a global crisis. According to the CDC alone, 2.8 millions drug-resistant infections are reported in the US each year.

What are drug-resistant infections?

Drug-resistant infections occur when bacteria that cause infection adapt and change over time, and can now withstand medications meant to kill them. Antibiotic resistance, one of the most common types of medication resistance, is a very common phenomenon. This is a process where bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics, and not humans or animals. These microorganisms are occasionally referred to as superbugs.

As a result, many medications–including antibiotics–are becoming less effective at curing illnesses. The excessive use of anti-biotics by humans, animals and plants accelerates this process.

Why does drug-resistance matter?

Antibiotics are a major part of modern medicine, both to prevent and treat illness. As infections resistant to medication increase, the future of modern medicine is at risk.

Without powerful antibiotics even everyday ailments such as diarrhea, routine surgery like hip replacements and unintentional injuries like cuts can be fatal. Resistance can affect the effectiveness of antibiotics, antifungals and antimalarials. This makes it harder to treat HIV, malaria, and fungus infections.

Who is at Risk?

Drug-resistant diseases are everywhere and can affect anyone. Microorganisms resistant to drugs can cause disease and infect everyone. Each year, at least 700 000 people worldwide die from illnesses that are resistant to medication.
It is difficult to determine the impact of drug-resistant disease on health due to the lack of data in many countries and locations. There are likely to be more people affected than we realize.

What is the cause of the rise in drug-resistant infections?

Over time, drug resistance will naturally occur. However, its recent increase has been accelerated due to human activity. According to the World Health Organization, only half of all antibiotics are being used correctly.

In the farming industry, antibiotics are used in large quantities to boost growth and production. Some countries believe that we consume a lot of antibiotics from animals treated with antibiotics in order to boost their growth.

The farming industry is not the only one that contributes to excessive use. Human healthcare is also a factor. In the USA, doctors write about 150 million prescriptions every year. Of those, perhaps 50 million are not necessary.

How can we slow down drug-resistant infections?

In the animal and human healthcare industries, it is vital to use antibiotics more effectively. If bacteria are exposed to antibiotics only on occasion, they will develop less resistance.

It is also important to create quick diagnostic tools. These tools will help physicians differentiate between viral and bacterial infections, and prescribe the right drug in the correct dosage. We also need to find new drugs that can slow down the rise of antibiotic resistance. This is a long and expensive process, which is hindered by various barriers. As a result, there has been little progress in the past few years.

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