An un-named English man has contracted a new strain of the STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) Gonorrhoea which has shown resistance to two last-resort antibiotics; Ceftriazone and Azithromycin. The man is suspected to have contracted the STI from a woman during his travels to south-east Asia in the early months of the year. The antibiotics he was attempted to be treated with were the two drugs recommended by the World Health Organisation for treatment of Gonorrhoea. The patient is being treated with ertapenem, another antibiotic.

Two years ago, the World Health Organisation had warned that the STI could become resistant to most antibiotics within ten years. But how exactly does something become resistant to antibiotics?

Antibiotics are used to kill or limit reproduction of bacterial infections and only bacterial infections, they serve no purpose if you have a cold, flu or a sore throat which are all viruses. Resistance to an antibiotic is caused when bacteria change in a way that reduces the effectiveness of drugs, chemicals, or other agents designed to cure or prevent infections. The bacteria survive and continue to multiply, causing more harm.

how-AR-happens

This resistance is caused by the overuse or miss-use of antibiotics. Every time a person takes antibiotics, sensitive bacteria (bacteria that antibiotics can still attack) are killed, but resistant bacteria are left to grow and multiply. This is how repeated use of antibiotics can increase the number of drug-resistant bacteria. Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections like the common cold, flu, most sore throats, bronchitis, and many sinus and ear infections. Widespread use of antibiotics for these illnesses is an example of how overuse of antibiotics can promote the spread of antibiotic resistance. Smart use of antibiotics is key to controlling the spread of resistance.

There are a variety of ways that bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics such as; some bacteria can neutralise an antibiotic by changing itself to make the antibiotic harmless, another way is the bacteria itself effectively pumping the antibiotic out of itself before it can do any harm, and others can change the outer structure of itself so there is no way for the antibiotic to attach and harm. It is very easy for a bacteria to become resistant, all that is needed is for one antibody to survive and then multiply and replace all of the dead antibodies.

To prevent this there are a variety of things patients and healthcare professionals can do to prevent the further emergence of this issue:

Patients can:

  • Tell their healthcare professional they are concerned about antibiotic resistance.
  • Ask their healthcare professional if there are steps you can take to feel better and get symptomatic relief without using antibiotics.
  • Take the prescribed antibiotic exactly as your healthcare professional tells you.
  • Ask your healthcare professional about vaccines recommended for them and their family to prevent infections that may require an antibiotic.
  • Never skip doses.
  • Never take an antibiotic for a viral infection like a cold or the flu.
  • Never pressure your healthcare professional to prescribe an antibiotic.
  • Never save antibiotics for the next time you get sick.
  • Never take antibiotics prescribed for someone else.

Healthcare Professionals can:

  • Prescribing an antibiotic only when it is likely to benefit the patient.
  • Prescribing an antibiotic that targets the bacteria that is most likely causing their patient’s illness when an antibiotic is likely to provide benefit.
  • Encouraging patients to use the antibiotic as instructed.
  • Collaborating with each other, office staff, and patients to promote appropriate antibiotic use.

Further Reading

CDC – Antibiotic Resistance

WHO – Antibiotic Resistance Fact Sheet

 

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