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Antibiotics, Friends or Foes? Written by Asmau and Khadija

About antibiotics, many have used or are using antibiotics at the moment. Also we have one or two infections in our body right now even if we don’t get sick or not notice. People rush to get relief for these infections and most times think they are making the right decision when on the contrary, they are actually making a wrong one. We would like you to follow us into the antibiotic world in this write up to get some insightful ideas that would help make a difference in the way we use them.

Antibiotics

Antibiotics are powerful medicines that fight bacterial infections, when used properly antibiotics can save lives. They either kill bacteria, inhibit their growth or keep them from reproducing. The body’s natural defenses can usually take it from there; mostly antibiotics help the immune system fight infections. Antibiotics do not fight infections caused by viruses, such as cold, sore throat, coughs etc. They are important drugs and it would be difficult to overstate the benefit antibiotics have played in treating bacterial infections, preventing the spread of disease and minimizing serious complications of disease.

Use of Antibiotics

Despite the fact that antibiotics are used to treat infections, misuses of them do a lot of harm. Antibiotics generally kill most of the bacteria in your body that are sensitive to them, even the “good” bacteria that help your body. Antibiotics can ruin the balance of bacteria in your body, leading to an upset stomachdiarrhea, a vaginal infection, or other problems. When antibiotics are taken regularly the good bacteria that help our body fight infections like fungal and other gets affected to and we become prone to small infections.

Taking antibiotics when having a viral may do more harm than good, using antibiotics when you don’t need them, or not using them properly, can add to antibiotic resistance. This happens when bacteria change and become able to resist the effects of an antibiotic.

Bacterial Resistance

Bacterial resistance is the ability of bacteria to resist the effects of an antibiotic. If antibiotics are taken when you do not need them, they may not work when you do need them. Each time you take antibiotics, you are more likely to have some bacteria that the medicine doesn’t kill. Over time, these bacteria change and become harder to kill. They become resistant to the medicine and mutate to develop mechanisms that will favor the bacteria to adapt to the antibiotic. The antibiotics that used to kill them no longer work.The overuse and misuse of antibiotics are key factors contributing to antibiotic resistance. The general public, doctors and hospitals all play a role in ensuring proper use of the drugs and minimizing the development of antibiotic resistance. A bacterium is resistant to a drug when it has changed in some way that either protects it from the action of the drug or neutralizes the drug. Any bacterium that survives an antibiotic treatment can then multiply and pass on its resistant properties. Also, some bacteria can transfer their drug-resistant properties to other bacteria as if passing along a cheat sheet to help each other survive. The fact that bacteria develop resistance to a drug is normal and expected. However, the way that drugs are used affects how quickly and to what extent drug resistance occurs.

Drug resistant infections occur after bacterial resistance. The increasing number of drug-resistant infections results in:

  • More-serious illness or disability
  • More deaths from previously treatable illnesses
  • Prolonged recovery
  • More-frequent or longer hospitalization
  • More doctor visits
  • Less effective or more-invasive treatments
  • More-expensive treatments

Antibiotic stewardship

The appropriate use of antibiotics often called antibiotic stewardship can help preserve the effectiveness of current antibiotics, extend their life span and protect the public from antibiotic-resistant infections. Hospitals and medical associations should implement new diagnostic and treatment guidelines to ensure effective treatments for bacterial infections and reduce inappropriate use of antibiotics.

The public also plays a role in antibiotic stewardship. They can help reduce the development of antibiotic resistance by taking the following steps:

  1. Use antibiotics only as prescribed by your doctor.
  2. Take the appropriate daily dosage and complete the entire course of treatment.
  3. If you have an antibiotic prescription, ask your doctor what you should do if you forget to take a dose.
  4. If for some reason you have leftover antibiotics, throw them away. Never take leftover antibiotics for a later illness. They may not be the correct antibiotic and would not be a full course of treatment.
  5. Never take antibiotics prescribed for another person.
  6. Don’t pressure your doctor to give you an antibiotic prescription. Ask your doctor for advice on how to treat symptoms.
  7. Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, especially after using the toilet, before eating, before preparing food and after handling fresh meat. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly, and keep kitchen work surfaces clean.
  8. Make sure you or your children receive recommended vaccinations.

Having read this, we feel you can now safely take informed decisions on the intake of antibiotics, know how and when best to use them and maintain a healthy lifestyle with antibiotics!

Asmau Ahmad and Khadija Katagum are staff of Community Health and Research Initiative, Nigeria

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