- Antimicrobial resistance is spreading rapidly worldwide, and has even been likened to the next pandemic – one that many people may not even be aware is happening.
- A recent survey has revealed that antimicrobial-resistant infections caused 12.7 lakh deaths and were associated with 49.5 lakh deaths in 2019.
- This is greater than the number of people who died from HIV/AIDS and malaria that year combined.
- Antimicrobial resistance happens when infection-causing microbes (such as bacteria, viruses or fungi) evolve to become resistant to the drug designed to kill them.
- This means that an antibiotic will no longer work to treat that infection anymore.
- Bacteria can develop antimicrobial resistance in a number of ways.
- First, bacteria develop antimicrobial resistance naturally.
- It’s part of the normal push and pull observed throughout the natural world. As we get stronger, bacteria will get stronger too.
- It is part of our co-evolution with bacteria – they are just quicker at evolving than we are, partly because they replicate faster and get more genetic mutations than we do.
- But the way we use antibiotics can also cause resistance.
- For example, one common cause is if people fail to complete a course of antibiotics.
- Although people may feel better a few days after starting antibiotics, not all bacteria are made equal. Some may be slower to be affected by the antibiotic than others.
- This means that if you stop taking the antibiotic early, the bacteria that were initially able to avoid the effect of the antibiotics will be able to multiply, thus passing their resistance on.
- Likewise, taking antibiotics unnecessarily can help bacteria to evolve resistance to antibiotics faster.
- This is why it is important not to take antibiotics unless they are prescribed, and to only use them for the infection they are prescribed for.
- Resistance can also be spread from person to person. For example, if someone who has antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their nose sneezes or coughs, it may be spread to people nearby.
- Research also shows that antimicrobial resistance can be spread through the environment, such as in unclean drinking water.
- Urgent change is needed in many industries to slow the spread of antimicrobial resistance.
- Of the greatest importance is using the antibiotics we have smarter. Combination therapy could hold the answer to slowing down antimicrobial resistance.
- This involves using several drugs in combination, rather than one drug on its own making it more difficult for bacteria to evolve resistance, while still successfully treating an infection.
- The next pandemic is already here – so further investment in research that looks at how we can stop this problem will be key.
Source: THE HINDU.