What is Antibiotic Resistance?

What is Antibiotic Resistance?

Antibiotics are one of the greatest discoveries of the 20th century.
They have defeated many disease-causing bacteria, saved many lives,
and eased serious side effects of many diseases and infections.

Antibiotics are only effective for treating infections caused
by bacteria
, however. For viral infections, antibiotics have
no effect. If a person takes an antibiotic to treat a viral infection,
it will not help, and it may harm, since it can lead to building up
resistance.

As well, over the past fifty years of widespread antibiotic use, many
of these drugs have lost their power to treat infections as they once
did
. Because of improper use of antibiotics, some bacteria
have changed and outsmarted these drugs. Bacteria that can survive these
powerful drugs have been given a chance to thrive and take over from
bacteria that can be killed by the drugs. This is called antibiotic
resistance.

Antibiotic resistance makes it more difficult to get rid of infections
in the body and increases the risk of getting infections in the hospital.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria make it difficult, and sometimes impossible,
to treat serious infections.

Before the Hib vaccine was developed, 30% of Haemophilus influenzae
type b (Hib) bacteria, which used to be a common cause of meningitis
in young children, had become resistant to amoxicillin, a commonly used
antibiotic. Since the introduction of Hib vaccines, the number of infections
caused by drug-sensitive and drug-resistant bacteria has decreased by
more than 95% in infants and children. So one possible solution, at
least for some bacteria, is vaccination. Vaccines can give your
child immunity against bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics
that are used to treat them.

There are other benefits to vaccination. For example,
there is a vaccine against chickenpox (varicella) virus that indirectly
works against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Children who get chickenpox
may develop skin infections with bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus
or group A streptococci, which may invade the blood stream. So, the
varicella vaccine protects children not only against chickenpox, but
also against infections caused by these bacteria, including those that
are resistant to antibiotics.

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