In this article:
The unnecessary treatment with antibiotics can result in nonbeneficial effects of therapy while still being susceptible to the medication’s adverse effects.
Antibiotics exert their effects by disrupting bacterial composition depending on the agents’ mechanism of action, which can lead to adaptations and openings for the bacteria to evade and emerge into new mutant strains that are then resistant to the current therapy. Bacterial resistance occurs from four known mechanisms: intrinsic resistance, acquired resistance, genetic change, and DNA transfer.
Improper usage of antibiotics may result in the advancement of a resistant strain that can then be transmitted to others who may then acquire the mutant drug-resistant strain. (1)
Thirty percent of antibiotics prescribed in outpatient settings in 2015 were unnecessary and avoidable, accounting for 47 million antibiotic courses, (2) of which 50% are for acute respiratory infections, which are the leading cause of unnecessary use.
Antibiotic resistance prevention measures can be exerted at all levels of society to minimize improper and excessive antibiotic use and minimize the spread of resistance.
Use of Antibiotics
Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. Bacteria can be of various sorts depending on their shape, cell wall composition, gaseous requirements, and nutritional patterns.
Antibiotics exert their effects by stopping bacterial growth (bacteriostatic) or by killing the bacteria (bactericidal), ultimately treating and preventing bacterial infection. Antibiotics can halt bacterial growth by interfering with their DNA replication, enzyme metabolism, and protein synthesis. (1)
Antibiotic resistance is a significant public health concern resulting in more costly medical expenses, extended hospital stays, and increased mortality.
The development and emergence of resistant bacteria can be transmitted to others, further causing treatment challenges carrying a high risk of mortality to those acquiring antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.
Patients susceptible to contracting such infections as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) don’t necessarily have to be on a current antibiotic regimen. (3)
Different types of resistant bacteria are as follows:
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
- Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE)
- Multidrug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MDR-TB)
- Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE)
Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant microorganisms become challenging to treat, even sometimes impossible, which can further cause lethal complications – antibiotic resistance matters when bacteria develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them.
It is impossible to avoid getting an infection, but preventive measures can reduce your risk of acquiring an antibiotic-resistant infectious disease. (4)
Preventive measures include:
- Education about the risk factors for infection
- Instruction on the proper use of antibiotics
- Not sharing antibiotics with family members
- Consulting with your healthcare provider if unsure about antibiotic use
- Not taking antibiotics not prescribed by your healthcare provider
- Being aware of changes in your health
- Regular hand washing
- Staying up to date on vaccinations
- Maintaining distance for ill family members
Factors Responsible for Antibiotic Resistance
The spread of resistant bacteria can occur in the hospital or community setting.
- Antibiotic misuse (5)
- Not fully completing the antibiotic treatment course
- Inadequate education and information on antibiotics (5)
- Consuming old or previous antibiotics
- Unintended use of antimicrobials
- Not consulting with a certified healthcare provider
- Unnecessary prescription of antibiotics
- Poor personal hygiene
- Poor infection control methods
- Inadequate sanitation techniques
- Improper use of personal protective equipment
- Not maintaining distance/overcrowded places
- Mishandling and improper disposal of sharp objects
Drug-Resistant Bacteria Found in Hospital Settings
Common drug-resistant bacteria in the hospital include:
Prevention of Antibiotic Resistance
Measures for antibiotic resistance prevention can be exerted at all levels of society, from individuals consuming antibiotics to healthcare professionals prescribing them and authorities implementing policy.
- Individual efforts begin with finishing the treatment prescribed by a certified healthcare professional intended for your treatment plan.
- Do not take antibiotics that are not prescribed for you.
- Complete the entire course of treatment on time as prescribed without skipping doses.
- Avoid sharing antibiotics. (4)
- Avoid taking a leftover medicine from the treatment plan of family or friends.
- Avoid consuming antibiotics from a previous unfinished treatment course.
- Consult with your healthcare provider if unsure about any antibiotic usage or information.
- Be up to date with the latest guidelines and stewardship when prescribing antibiotics to their patients.
- Keep a clean and sanitary environment. (4)
- Provide education and instructions on antibiotics and their use, including resistance development and its complications, that are clearly understood and acknowledged by the patients.
- Implement strategies to improve surveillance and monitor antibiotic-resistant infections.
- Establish disease prevention and control strategies.
- Make educational insight and information on antibiotics resistance and its lethal complications readily available. (4)
Most-Asked Questions About Antibiotic Resistance
Does taking antibiotics contribute to antibiotic resistance?
Proper usage of antibiotics can contribute to therapeutic outcomes and the eradication of bacterial infections. Unnecessary and improper usage of antibiotics contributes to antibiotic resistance.
It is essential to take antibiotics only for its intended purpose (bacterial infections) as taking antibiotics haphazardly, such as for therapy for viral infections, won’t have therapeutic benefits and will contribute to antibiotic resistance. (4)
How is antibiotic resistance treated?
Antibiotic resistance is better prevented via preventive measures such as those mentioned above than treated. Bacteria that have undergone a change (intrinsic resistance, acquired resistance, genetic change, and DNA transfer) to evade being eliminated by antibiotics become very challenging to treat.
Treatment may require more potent and more costly medications or taking antimicrobials for a longer duration, which can further result in harmful effects to health.
Is antibiotic resistance reversible?
Antibiotic resistance reversibility is challenging in clinical practice, although engaging in theory. Ongoing research and new developments on antibiotic resistance reversibility, newer antimicrobials, immunizations, and diagnostics can positively impact future outcomes. (7)
Is antibiotic resistance permanent?
Antibiotics resistance occurs when the antibiotic created to eliminate the bacteria can no longer destroy them, making them permanent, so it is crucial to utilize antibiotics only for their intended purpose as prescribed by a certified healthcare professional.
Antibiotic resistance can make treatable illnesses, such as bacterial pneumonia or meningitis, more troublesome to manage and treat.
Antibiotics are designed to kill bacteria that cause infections such as sinusitis, UTIs, pneumonia, and meningitis. When bacteria evade the mechanism of antibiotics that are made to eliminate them, they become resistant to the antibiotics, making them challenging to treat. As a result, infections that are once treatable with common antibiotics become more robust and costly agents.