The Reliance GP Blog

Too much of a good thing: Antibiotic Resistance
Missy Tysoe August 10, 2017

Antibiotic Resistance

What are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are medicines used to treat bacterial infections occurring in the respiratory tract (chest, throat, sinus), urinary tract (UTIs), wounds, and other various infections. It is important to note that antibiotics can only kill bacteria, and therefore treat infections, but cannot be used to treat viral conditions. Common forms of antibiotics are; Penicillins, Tetracyclines, Cephalosporins, Quinolones, Lincomycins, Macrolides, Sulfonamides, Glycopeptides, Aminoglycosides, and Carbapenems. These may be made in different forms under different names.

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How do antibiotics work?

Antibiotics work by blocking vital processes in bacteria, killing the bacteria or stopping them from multiplying. This helps the body’s natural immune system to fight the bacterial infection. Different antibiotics work against different types of bacteria.

 

What is Antibiotic Resistance?

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria changes in response to (or more simply “gets use to”) these medicines. These changes allow the bacteria to survive or ‘resist’ the antibiotic, so that the antibiotic no longer works to kill the bacteria or stop them from multiplying. The more antibiotics are used, the more chances bacteria have to become resistant to them. As more antibiotics stop working against bacterial infections, doctors will have fewer antibiotics to use. Many common infections may eventually become untreatable with medicines.

What are the consequences?

Antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to global public health today, as infections become harder to treat than those caused by non-resistant bacteria. A growing list of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning and gonorrhoea – are becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat as antibiotics become less effective. Without action, we are heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can run rampant.

Antibiotics may also effect the bacteria in your stomach, which can interfere with digestion of other medicines such as the contraceptive pill. It is important to discuss any medications with your doctor before taking a prescription of antibiotics. Other long term side effects of antibiotics may include tooth discolouration, or in rare cases, a lowered immune system from a decrease in white blood cells. The likelihood or severity of these side effects may depend on the main ingredient, the frequency of use and the patient’s existing medical conditions.

 

Prevention and control

Antibiotic resistance is accelerated by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, as well as poor infection prevention and control. Steps can be taken at all levels of society to reduce the impact and limit the spread of resistance.

To reduce resistance, we must stay informed about the prescription and use of antibiotics. Behaviour changes must also include actions to reduce the spread of infections through vaccination, hand washing, practising safer sex, and good food hygiene.

To prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, individuals can:

  • Only use antibiotics when prescribed by a certified health professional.
  • Never demand antibiotics if your health worker says you don’t need them. There are actions that you can take to reduce the chance of resistance developing.
  • Take the prescribed dose and complete the whole course of treatment prescribed by your doctor. Even if you are feeling better, taking the whole course reduces the chance that some bacteria will survive and become resistant.
  • Don’t share antibiotics with another person. This is important because the type of antibiotic may not be targeted to the bacteria causing their particular infection.
  • Don’t keep leftovers. The dose and amount leftover may not be enough to destroy a new infection – creating more opportunity for resistant bacteria to develop and multiply.
  • Prevent infections by regularly by washing hands, preparing food hygienically, avoiding close contact with sick people, practising safer sex, and keeping vaccinations up to date.

 

Reducing antibiotic resistance is everyone’s responsibility. Speak to your GP before taking antibiotics, to make an appointment call 43041 333 or book online via the appointuit app reliancehealth.com.au

 

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Resources: World Health Organisation

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