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How to Prevent Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance is a huge concern for the future of medicine. Because of the growing number of antibiotic resistant bacterial strains, it is becoming harder and harder to fight infections in our hospitals. Antibiotic resistance is the ability for bacterial pathogens to develop immunity to antibiotics through some form of drug resistance.

It is of increasing concern in the last decade, as the use of antibiotics and antibacterials allows for the natural selection of “super-bugs”, or those bacteria with resistance. These bacteria multiply and spread the immunity to other bacteria through lateral gene transfer.

There are two primary ways we can prevent antibiotic resistance. We can minimize our need for antibiotics and develop alternative ways to combat infection.

Reducing Antibiotic Use

1) Only take antibiotics when necessary. The primary cause of antibiotic resistance on a global scale is the overuse of antibiotics. Every time antibiotics are used, it creates a form of natural selection that weeds out the susceptible bacteria and allows the resistant strains to grow. Do not demand antibiotics for just any cold or infection. Allow health-care providers to determine the best way to treat your infection, rather than expecting antibiotics to be the “cure-all” for your infection.

2) Wash hands with regular soap and use alcohol/bleach based cleaners. Other chemicals have been shown to develop resistance in bacteria. Soon bacteria will be immune to these chemicals and all the cleaners that utilize them will be useless. Choose to wash with regular soap, rather than special antibacterial soaps. Many studies have shown that regular soap can be just as effective for removing bacteria, if hands are washed properly. Alcohol and bleach are very effective against bacteria, and have very little chance of creating new resistant strains.

3) Educate others. Even if you do everything right, you will only be preventing resistance in a small slice of the world. Tell your friends and family what you’ve learned about resistance, so hopefully many more people will learn good habits. If most of the world followed good habits for preventing resistance, we’d see fewer cases in a short time.

Other Ways to Combat Infection

1) Vaccinations. Vaccines increase your bodies ability to defend itself, eliminating the possibility of a specific form of antibiotic resistance.

2) Phage therapy. Bacteriophages target and destroy bacteria, and may be the future of treatment of infection. However, the technology is still developing and may be a way off before seeing daily use.

3) Future research in lipopeptides. Some research has shown a new form of antibiotics, called antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) and antimicrobial lipopeptides (AMLPs). These target bacterial membranes, making it nearly impossible to develop resistance (bacteria would have to totally change their membrane composition). These are a long way off, as the research is still in its infancy.