The alarm of drug-resistant bacteria threatens our society (and it is also a reason why we founded this society). To understand a certain extent of this emergency, here is a list of interesting facts about antibiotics.
1. Antibiotics are not always useful
Antibiotics are very powerful, they can kill bacteria that cause infections and diseases, but they do not work for everything. In most cases, they are not useful for colds, flu, or any other disease caused by a virus. In addition, there is no one size fits all: there are hundreds of antibiotics with different mechanisms of action. Taking the wrong antibiotic has no effectiveness and could cause harmful side effects. Antibiotic abuse also drives antibiotic resistance, which also weakens effective antibiotics. These drugs are really mutagenic: when they don’t kill every bacterium, they trigger other cells to fight for survival. Resistant bacteria can pass their code to their offspring, increasing the number of antibiotic-resistant cells. In addition, resistances can accumulate resulting in “superbugs” being immune to multiple antibiotics.
2. ANTIBIOTIC SIDE EFFECTS: WEAKER IMMUNE SYSTEM AND INCREASED RISK OF OBESITY
Antibiotics, although effective, have several side effects that include: diarrhea, allergic reactions such as rashes, skin blisters, swelling of the neck and throat, difficulty breathing, and – last but not least -antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics fight all kinds of bacteria without distinguishing the virtuous bacteria in your body. Most of them are harmless and good for you, even helping your immune system stay healthy and strong. Overuse and overuse of antibiotics weaken immune cells making them more susceptible to reinfection. In addition, antibiotics also stop bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. This can permanently alter the bacterial balance and absorption capacity of the intestine, increasing the risk of obesity.
3. MORE PEOPLE DIE OF ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE
Antibiotic resistance is a natural phenomenon; however, its overuse makes the problem much worse. Since bacteria are prone to mutate and develop resistance, it is important to use them sparingly and only when necessary to maintain their effectiveness. According to the 2019 World Health Organization report, nearly 700,000 people die each year from drug-resistant disease. If this problem is not addressed properly, the number could grow to 10 million per year by 2050. Within this projection, antibiotic resistance would be more lethal than cancer. Many important medical advances will be wiped out and people will risk death from simple infections.
4. USE OF ANTIBIOTICS IN LIVESTOCK ALSO DRIVE RESISTANCE
There is abuse of antibiotics and abuse even in farms to improve the growth of livestock and to combat their infections. Almost 66% of antibiotics are used for animals, not for people (world data). This also applies to fish and shrimp farming. However, there has been some progress in Europe, where the use of antibiotics in agriculture has fallen by a third over the last decade, and it is expected that new European regulations will put an end to the habitual use of antibiotics in 2022. In Asian and Oceanic farms, sales of antibiotics per unit of livestock are four times higher. It is important to know that animals can stay healthy without the use of routine drugs through good practice: like humans, Stress and the subsequent release of cortisol weakens the immune system that drives animals’ susceptibility to infection and disease. Increased animal welfare and a ban on intensive systems can provide a sustainable solution.
5. THE DISCOVERY OF NEW ANTIBIOTICS HAS SLOWED
With the increase in antibiotic resistance worldwide, finding new and effective antibiotics is becoming increasingly difficult. The process of finding new drugs is slow and expensive: ten years ago, every dollar invested in R&D would have led to ten cents; today, every dollar put in R&D generates two cents of return on investment. In addition, antibiotic resistance is accelerating. Vancomycin was first prescribed in 1972, and then vancomycin-resistant bacteria emerged in 1988. Daptomycin came out in 2003, with considerable resistance in 2004. With systems based on artificial intelligence, the search for new drugs will become more effective, faster and cheaper, but the fight against antibiotic resistance will require not only multidisciplinary strategies, but also a change of habits and new regulations.