Antibiotic Resistance: What is it, causes and treatment

Antibiotic Resistance: What is it, causes and treatment
Published : Oct 22, 2023
Last Updated : Feb 08, 2024

When bacteria in your body develop the ability to survive exposure to antibiotics that kill them or stop their growth, antibiotic resistance happens.

Antibiotics are effective medications that fight against bacterial infections and when used properly, they can even save lives.

However, with time there is a rising problem of antibiotic resistance across the globe.

Every time you take antibiotic medicines, there is a risk that bacteria in your body can become resistant.

It might be possible that sometimes resistant infections become difficult and impossible to treat.

Remember such types of infections even spread to other people and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus is one such example.

This further causes infections that might be resistant to various common antibiotics.

What do you understand by antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotics are medications that help your body to fight against bacteria by killing them.

With time, certain groups of these germs might adapt to antibiotic medications.

They may even change in a way that antibiotics can’t kill them effectively. This condition is called antibiotic resistance.

You need to know that bacteria are very small organisms that enter your body easily.

Though some of them are harmless & can be helpful for the body. While other germs can be dangerous.

When these harmful germs start multiplying inside your body, you suffer from diseases.

Before antibiotics, people used to often get sick from bacterial infections. But these medicines now treat bacterial infections easily.

Throughout the world, antibiotic resistance has become a serious concern as it causes illnesses that are difficult to treat.

In these cases, standard antibiotics for treating a disease might not work properly. Other pills will also not work.

What are the different causes of antibiotic resistance?

There are several factors that contribute to antibiotic resistance. Some of them are mentioned below:

Overuse of antibiotics

Taking antibiotics when they are not required or helpful often leads to the problem of antibiotic resistance.

Most cases of pharyngitis (sore throat) are viral and antibiotics won’t help you. Even ear infections caused by bacteria improve without antibiotics.

Related Article - Difference between Bacterial and Viral Infection

Misusing antibiotics

Remember bacteria can take benefit of any opportunity to multiply.

In case, you forget to take a medication for a day, stop treatment too early, or use the wrong antibiotics, bacteria start reproducing.

As they multiply, they change and mutated bacteria start to become more resistant to medicine.

Transmitted resistance

You might end up passing a dangerous drug-resistant bacterial infection to another person. You will notice that a person now suffers from an infection that is not responding to antibiotics.

We might find a treatment but time has passed and now resistant bacteria can be difficult to treat.

Unprompted resistance

Sometimes, the genetic makeup (DNA) of a bacterium transforms or mutates on its own. 

In this condition, the antibiotic does not recognize this newly changed bacterium and can’t target the way it should.

Such a type of change can also aid bacteria in fighting off the effects of medicine.

Who has more risk of experiencing antibiotic resistance?

The more you use antibiotics, the more likely it is for you to experience antibiotic resistance.

Sometimes, end up taking antibiotics when they don’t actually require them. Remember antibiotics do not work against viruses.

Like bacteria, viruses are tiny organisms that can attack your body and cause serious infections.

A cold or flu is a type of virus and taking antibiotics in such conditions, won’t help you at all.

Your chance of experiencing antibiotic resistance will increase.

When you stop taking antibiotics too early, bacteria might not be killed. This makes remaining germs resistant.

Complications of antibiotic resistance

When bacterial infections turn out to be drug-resistant, doctors have very less treatment options.

This problem can further lead to various complications including:

More risk of experiencing serious, extended illness and even death

  • More medical appointments with the doctor
  • Serious side effects of medicine
  • Longer stays in hospital
  • Increased medical costs

Treatment for antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections

When an infection shows signs of antibiotic resistance, your doctor might try some other medication.

New medicine might have more serious side effects and trying a different antibiotic can increase risk of developing resistance to that drug.

How antibiotic resistance can be prevented?

Here are some steps that can lower your risk of experiencing antibiotic resistance:

  • Always take antibiotics which are recommended to you by your doctor. Do not take someone else medications.
  • To treat your symptoms without antibiotics, you must follow the advice of a doctor. Do not force your doctor for an unnecessary prescription.
  • To avoid missing a dose, set a reminder on the phone. If you forget any dosage then consult your doctor once.
  • Even if you feel better, continue taking antibiotics for a prescribed period. Stopping antibiotics too early can develop resistance.

Thus, antibiotic resistance is now a worldwide problem but to prevent it, you must use antibiotics only when required.