The discovery of antibiotics was a turning point in the history of the modern world. Antibiotics have given us a powerful way to fight and win against bacterial infections
and diseases. There is no argument that the discovery of antibiotics has been one of the most important milestones in the history of health care.
That being said, the inevitable misuse of antibiotics has presented risks that can lead to catastrophic consequences. That statement seems extreme, but it is justified. The correct knowledge of how to use these wonder drugs can be life saving, but ignorance and misuse can be, and is, dangerous.
Antibiotics fight bacteria, period. They do not and cannot fight viruses. Many people who claim that taking antibiotics when they have a common cold makes them feel better after a few days don’t realize that after a few days they would have felt better anyway. The common cold is not bacterial, it is viral. A common misconception is that taking antibiotics can lessen the severity of a cold or even cure it. This is dangerously untrue.
And what is the danger? If you take an antibiotic when it really isn’t needed, it’s not going to hurt anything, is it? Yes, it absolutely can hurt. Maybe not immediately, but the long-term consequences can be very harmful. Unfortunately, this is being proven on a wider and wider scale as time goes by.
Every human body carries “good” bacteria. Good bacteria, or “probiotics” are needed for proper digestion, and actually help to fight infection and prevent disease.
Antibiotics, in general, do not see the difference between good and bad bacteria; they can and will attack both. In the case of a true bacterial infection, this is an acceptable side effect, because the “bad” bacteria need to be destroyed, and the antibiotic will be concentrating mostly on that task. Though good bacteria may be destroyed when taking antibiotic drugs, once the bad bacteria are gone the body should be strong enough to rebuild the good again. If there are no bad bacteria present and antibiotics are taken, the drug attacks only the good bacteria, and can cause an imbalance that may take the body a long time to correct. The result of this imbalance can be a weakened immune system and lowered resistance to dangerous bacteria. With the body’s weakened response to bad bacteria, stronger antibiotics may be needed the next time there is a bacterial infection. The worst-case scenario is that there may come a time when there is not an antibiotic strong enough on the market to cure some types of bacterial infections.
This can and has happened.
Another misuse of antibiotics is not taking the entire amount prescribed. Most antibiotics tend to work rather quickly, and the person taking them may feel much better within a couple of days. Once that happens, this person may think that no further antibiotics are necessary, or they may simply forget to take the rest. What this person doesn’t know is, there may be a few bad bacteria left that, although they are no longer causing symptoms, have not been destroyed. Without the rest of the prescription to kill them off, the remaining bacteria develop a resistance to that antibiotic, and a recurrence of the infection may yet again need a different, stronger antibiotic. Again, there may come a time when the stronger antibiotic has not yet been developed.
With more and more misuse of antibiotics, the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria has become a worldwide problem that cannot be ignored. The consequences of these increasing numbers of “super bacteria” can set medicine back to a time when simple bacterial infections can once again be life-threatening. Education is the key to the prevention of this happening. Ignorance of the proper use of antibiotics must not be tolerated – the price is too high.