Potential Doomsday Effects Of Antibiotic Resistance
Since Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928 antibiotics has saved millions of lives. But there’s a problem looming that could potentiality cause an antibiotic doomsday. The problem that I refer to is called antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics are an effective treatment for infectious diseases because most illnesses are caused by bacterial agents. However, it is now understood that the typical antibiotic now has a limited lifespan. Becoming ineffective as soon as the bacterial agent they target develops resistance to their effects.
This is the case with tuberculosis, which was once thought to have been wiped out in the developed world. This is now also becoming the case with many other bacterial infections. The World Health Organization recently stated that antibiotic resistance is rising to dangerously high levels on all continents. This is due to new emerging resistance mechanisms that are spreading globally. These emerging resistance mechanisms threaten the ability to successfully treat common infectious diseases.
How do Antibiotics Work?
Antibiotics work by attacking things that bacterial cells have that human cells don’t have. There are two main ways in which antibiotics target bacteria cells.
- Prevent the reproduction of bacteria
- Kill the bacteria
For example by stopping the mechanism responsible for building their cell walls. The antibiotic penicillin works by preventing the bacterium from building a cell wall.
What is Antibiotic Resistance?
Antibiotic resistance is caused by bacteria adapting and changing in a way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of antibiotics. The bacteria adapt and continue to survive and multiply. The challenge of combating antibiotic resistance is a complex one. Some bacterial agents have only developed resistance to specific types of antibiotic. On the other hand, some have developed effective antibiotic resistance to all antibiotics currently available on the market.
For example, experts have pointed out the gradual increase in the number of resistant cases of tuberculosis. They see this as an indication of the possible damage this problem can cause. With tuberculosis being resistant to all the current drugs used against it. Treating the resistant strain is becoming more and more difficult. As a result, the disease is becoming more fatal.
Are We Heading For An Antibiotic Doomsday?
Whilst on first impression title of this article may seem a little over the top. Sounding more like a plot for the next Hollywood doomsday scenario blockbuster. I urge you to continue reading because an antibiotic doomsday may indeed occur if we don’t solve the antibiotic resistance problem. Take for example the common cold which has long been a problem for medicine. A cure for which has never been developed and considered impossible to do so. This is because the virus at the root of the common cold known as viral rhinopharyngitis adapts at a rapid pace. It has the ability to quickly become resistant to the effects of medication used to treat it the year before.
The common cold is not considered life threatening and is a viral infection so not treated with antibiotics. However, there is a very strong possibility that other, more dangerous bacterial agents may emerge with the same level of adaptability. If they do and antibiotics don’t work we could be facing antibiotic doomsday pandemic scenarios. This is due to the highly infectious nature and resistance to multiple bacterial agents. Highly populated urban area’s make perfect environments for the rapid spread of such a pandemic.
The Fight to Prevent an Antibiotic Doomsday Event
Bacteria have the ability to adapt and combat countermeasures used against them at a fast rate. Much faster than the speed at which researchers can develop new antibiotic medication. For example, a hospital in Switzerland found that, within a period of three years. Strains of Escherichia coli that they encountered developed resistance to all five known types of antibacterial agents for it. They also noted that the sudden increase in resistance was linked to increased use of antimicrobial agents.
Some experts believe that the success and widespread use of antibiotics is the root cause of the problem. The more bacteria are exposed to antibiotics, the higher the chances of a resistant mutated strain emerging. To combat this we surely need to develop new forms of antibiotics but to a large degree the pipeline of new antibiotics has dried up considerably since the early 90’s. This is because the number of pharmaceutical companies investing in antibiotic research has dwindled.
What Will Happen If Antibiotics Stop Working?
The scenario of an antibiotic doomsday relates to a potential time in the future when antibiotics would no longer work. Whilst we are not yet in a post-antibiotic era you don’t have to go back in history much further than 70 years to understand that infections that today are considered minor. Were back then considered life threatening and a major cause of human death. These diseases are still around today. Some of them have become more problematic than they were back then because of the bacterial mutations and resistance that has occurred.
Without antibiotics infections like Pneumonia and Gonorrhea will once again rear their heads on a massive scale. Surgical operations will become more dangerous. Transplant surgery will become virtually impossible.
Antibiotic Doomsday Event Summary
When antibiotics were first discovered its doubtful that anyone could have predicted the rapid evolution of antibiotic resistance. Even if they had antibiotics were a major breakthrough in medical science and have saved countless lives. Whats important now is for the problem of resistance to antibiotics to be solved. We have great medical institutions and scientists that will hopefully come up with the solution. In the meantime you should prepare as best you can and keep up to date on the current state of antibiotics resistance.
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