Antibiotic Resistance: A Public Health Problem

From sinus infections to urinary tract infections to strep throat and more--most of us have taken an antibiotic at some point in our lives. But what happens if next time you have a bacterial infection, your prescribed antibiotic doesn’t work?

Our bodies are full of bacterial cells that aid our immune systems and contribute to your metabolism. However, bacteria can appear in many forms. Some can instantly turn from friend to foe, while others will make us sick any chance they get. Since their discovery in the 1920s we've been relying on antibiotics, but soon that could all change.

Antibacterial resistance is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year in the United States, at least 2,049,442 illnesses are caused by resistance to medicines prescribed to treat bacterial or fungal infections. Furthermore, 23,000 people die each year when these drugs fail to work.

This video from the World Health Organization explains how antibiotic resistance is a big global threat.

That is a scary thought. So, why have our once reliable antibacterials stopped working? It's all about mutations. Bacteria are prone to DNA mutations. This is part of their natural evolution and allows them to constantly adapt their genetic makeup. When one bug naturally becomes resistant to a drug, it survives when all others are killed.

This video from React Group explains how mutations and natural selection can create a resistance to antibiotics.

If the bad bacteria comes out on top, it's bad news for the infected individual. The drug-resistant bacterium will likely spread and, furthermore, it can pass the resistance to its numerous offspring.

Antibiotic resistance has been called one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. It can cause illnesses that were once easily treatable with antibiotics to become dangerous infections. It is our responsibility to do our part in preventing antibiotic-resistant bacteria from spreading to family members, schoolmates, co-workers, and our community.

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