What is Antimicrobial?
Any substance that originates from a natural, synthetic, or semisynthetic source and ends up killing or stopping the growth of microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, fungi, or protozoa is called an antimicrobial. Antimicrobial substances have a widely-prevalent use in:
- Pharmaceutical drugs such as antibiotics, antivirals and antifungals, and
- Chemicals like disinfectants, antiseptics, and preservatives commonly used in personal care products and sterilizing agents.
The common examples of antimicrobials are:
- Penicillin – an antibiotic
- Penicillin – an antibiotic
- Fluconazole – an antifungal medication
- Praziquantel/Albendazole– an antiparasitic medication
What is Antimicrobial Resistance?
Antimicrobial resistance happens when the microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, and viruses acquire the ability to defeat the drugs that are primarily designed to kill them. In a situation of antimicrobial resistance, despite the patient being on antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, and antiparasitic; the germs are not killed and they continue to grow. Such antimicrobial resistance infections are challenging to treat and sometimes become impossible to handle. As per data quoted by CDC in 2019, antimicrobial resistance ends up killing almost 1.27 million people globally. Over 2.8 million antimicrobial resistance infections happen every year in the U.S. Antimicrobial resistance is a global public health threat that has the potential to affect people at any stage of life. Moreover, it can spread across verticals like healthcare, agriculture, and veterinary. Its widespread phenomenon makes it one of the deadliest and trickiest world health problems.
To become dangerous and life-threatening, microorganisms like bacteria and fungi don’t require to be resistant to every antibiotic or antifungal. Its acquired ability to develop resistance to even one antibiotic can translate into serious health havoc. For instance,
- Such antimicrobial-resistant infections that require to be put on the second or third line of treatment can potentially harm the patients by causing fatal and life-altering side effects. Examples of such side effects include organ failure and extended care and recovery of the patient that can sometimes even stretch for months.
- There are some medical advances whose effectiveness is solely dependent on the ability to fight infections using antibiotics. Such treatment options include joint replacements, organ transplants, cancer therapy, and prolonged treatment of chronic health problems like diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma.
- Some of such cases may not have any treatment option at all.
If antifungals and antibiotics end up losing their efficacy to treat infections, it becomes difficult to control public health threats like antimicrobial resistance. Antimicrobial resistance can lead to:
- More severe and life-threatening infections
- Prolonged recovery times
- Hefty medical expenses
- Use of a riskier drug or an expensive medical treatment
- Mortality in some cases
Illnesses caused by Microbes & Treated by Antimicrobials
Antimicrobials treat a variety of illnesses caused by microbes. Some examples of the same include:
- Sore throat
- Yeast infections
- Athlete’s foot
- Urinary tract infections
Things to Know About Antimicrobial Resistance
- Antimicrobial resistance occurs when the germs affecting the patient’s body end up defeating the drugs that are designed to kill or stop them. AMR doesn’t mean your body is resistant to antibiotics, antifungals, or antiparasitics.
- Antimicrobial resistance infections can happen to anyone, irrespective of age, stage of life, or gender. The infections that are caused by the resistant germs take a tricky turn and get challenging, sometimes even impossible, to treat. It’s been seen in such cases increasingly that the patients are required to stay in the hospital for a longer duration. The patients are also required to have additional follow-up visits with the doctor and undergo such treatment that may be expensive on the patient’s pocket and toxic to their health too.
- Antimicrobial resistance infections, when occur, are challenging and life-threatening to treat. However, you can significantly reduce your risk of contracting an antimicrobial resistance infection by adopting healthy habits. Keep getting yourself vaccinated as recommended by doctors, practice effective hand hygiene, manage your chronic illnesses like diabetes carefully, and always keep your wounds clean to prevent the growth of infections.
- Always pop an antibiotic only on your doctor’s recommendation. Antibiotics don’t work on viruses like cold and flu, which is why it is not required to take antibiotics in case of a viral infection. Each time you pop an antibiotic drug, you expose your body to a multitude of serious side effects that come with the use of antibiotics. Such side effects, when continued for a long, can take up the shape of resistance. This means that if one keeps taking antibiotics even in such infections where it’s not needed, they may develop a resistance to the antibiotics after some time which significantly impacts their treatment and life.
How to Prevent Antimicrobial Resistance?
Prevention is the best way to protect oneself against bacteria and viruses. However, it’s not entirely possible to eliminate antimicrobial resistance as the microbes can always adapt and change themselves according to the breeding environment. There are some ways you can try to reduce your exposure to such microbes and prevent yourself from getting infected. Here’s what to take care of:
- Whenever affected or diagnosed with any illness, don’t self-medicate. Always consult your doctor and discuss the symptoms in detail to work out the treatment plan that’s best suited for your body and the infection type.
- Stick to the prescription and drug dosage or consumption instructions carefully in case of any prescription medication.
- Never share your prescription medication with anyone else without your healthcare provider’s advice or vice versa.
- Never keep your old prescription drugs to use later.
- Get yourself vaccinated with time to reduce or prevent your chances of acquiring any infections.
- Focus on preventing illnesses and the need for antimicrobial drugs by taking appropriate steps. Following good health practices like a balanced diet, proper sleep, optimal hand hygiene (washing hands frequently), regular exercise, and stress reduction.
Based on the studies and data from World Health Organization (WHO), antimicrobial resistance is one of the top 10 global public health threats. It poses a challenging threat in front of modern science to reverse their miracles. Given the statistics, if antimicrobial resistance continues to move forward at its current pace, there will come a time when infections will no longer be able to be handled and treated by healthcare providers. However, as a bright beam of light, institutions like WHO and CDC are focussed on their efforts and initiatives to track, research, combat, and prevent antimicrobial resistance.