Written by Tan Pei Yee, AA Pharmacist.

Antibiotics are drugs to treat bacterial infections in both humans and animals, either by killing the bacteria or making it difficult for the bacteria to grow and multiply. Since the 1940s, the development of effective and safe drugs to deal with bacterial and other infections has revolutionised medical treatment and dramatically reduced the morbidity and mortality associated with these diseases. Unfortunately, the development of antibiotics has been accompanied by the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and this has become one of the biggest threats to global health.

What is antibiotic resistance?

As its name suggests, antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of antibiotics and lastly the antibiotics will no longer work on them. This is not unexpected, due to the evolutionary adaptation, bacteria will inevitably find ways of resisting the antibiotics developed by humans. Indiscriminate use of antibiotics by the healthcare workers and the public has undoubtedly encouraged the growth of resistant bacteria. Every time when an individual consumes antibiotic, sensitive bacteria are killed, but resistant bacteria.

may be left to grow. As more antibiotics are being used, the number of resistant bacteria will increase and eventually lead to the birth of deadly superbug. Without any urgent action, we are heading to a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.

When do you need antibiotics?

Have you ever asked for antibiotics from your doctor or pharmacist when you are having cold or flu? Usually you will not able to get the antibiotics as your healthcare provider will tell you either to wait these illnesses out or prescribe other medications to help you get rid of them. The reason behind is only bacterial infections can be killed by antibiotics. The common cold, flu, most coughs, some bronchitis infections and sore throats, and stomach flu are caused by viruses. Therefore, antibiotics will not be effective to treat these conditions, yet the misuse of antibiotics will accelerate the development of resistance. If you use antibiotics when you do not need them, they will become no use when you really need them.

What are the impacts of antibiotic resistance?

The phenomenon of antibiotic resistance imposes serious constraints on the options available for the medical treatment of many bacterial infections. When infections can no longer be treated by the first-line antibiotics, other type of antibiotics must be used and this will definitely lead to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and greater economic burden on families.


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