Antibiotics is one of the powerful weapons used to cope with bacteria. The word antibiotics is a Greek word, anti means against and bios means life so antibiotics are against life (specifically bacteria killing drugs). Syphilis, tuberculosis, pneumonia, scarlet fever and gonorrhea are few diseases caused by bacteria. Previously many bacterial infections may kill millions of life. First antibiotic was Penicillin, thanks to Alexander Fleming who discovered it in 1928. Generally we divide antibiotics into two major categories Bactericidal (those drugs which kill bacteria) and Bacteriostatic (who retard their further multiplication). They target many bacteria, fungi and parasites but they are in-effective against viruses.
Development of antibiotics was no doubt a remarkable achievement of mankind. In the last 60 years, antibiotics have been an important warrior in the battle between disease causing bacteria (pathogens) and other microbes. After its discovery, in 1946 Penicillin (wonder drug) was generally available for the treatment of bacterial infections caused by staph and strep species. Penicillin was so effective that it kills these pathogens without harming the host. Many new antibiotics were developed having streptomycin, tetracycline and chlorampehnicol. At that time these antibiotics were fully equipped to kill all the array of bacteria. But soon there is an upcoming threat for the humanity caused by these antibiotics.
Antibiotic resistance occurs when the drug loses its effectiveness over the pathogens and the ability to kill or control them. So in that situation bacteria becomes resistant to that drug and continues to reproduce in its presence causing more harm. In other words, bacteria that were susceptible to number of antibiotics at one time are no longer being targeted by that antibiotic or number of antibiotics. They may become resistant to one or multiple drug resistant and be termed as superbugs. MRSA (methicillin/ oxacillin – resistant stapycoccus aureus), VRE (vancomycin- resistant enterococci) and PRSP (penicillin-resistant streptococcus pnemoniae) are the few most important types of multiple drug resistant organisms.
Antimicrobial resistance is now one the major threat to the mankind, in recent years resistance emerged as the solely concern for the public health and the menace is continuously growing. The first ever assessment made on drug resistance, report published by World Health Organization (WHO) a couple of months ago states that the threat caused by pathogens is no longer a prediction. It is happening worldwide right now and it has the potential to affect each and every person disregard of its age and country. It is now declared that antibiotic resistance is the most pressing public health concern all over the world not only developing countries but also for the developed countries.
Antibiotic resistance is a naturally occurring phenomena but it catalyzed by human activities, as bacteria can also produce antibiotics to use them against other bacteria for its survival, helping those bacteria having a naturally occurring resistant gene in the genome leading a low level selection. But on the other hand higher level of resistance is being caused by number of human actions. Over use of antibiotics and self-medication is one of the most eminent causes for the spreading of artificial resistance among those pathogens. Intake of unprescribed drugs and unnecessary use are also increasing the selective pressure. Misuses of these drugs ultimately jeopardize their benefit thus decreasing the options for controlling a disease against bacteria. Children are more susceptible to the risks as their immune system is not strong enough to tackle with these pathogens.
People having mild infections that were once easily treated using antibiotics now becoming significantly dangerous for their survival. Thinking of the post-antibiotic era, when antibiotics fail to achieve their effect and the illness become long lasting, more patients, more hospital requires, more staff ultimately more money and all that expenses effect the economy of the a country. WHO has already forewarned about the consequences about the upcoming threat that is could have radical effect globally not only on economy, medicines and also on societies until or unless some serious measures are taken rapidly. To address the problem, the WHO has recommended global coordinated action on a large scale in a Geneva Convention.
Antibiotic resistance is progressing in human race from many years and now scientists are focusing to produce more effective antibiotics to keep the balance. Finding an innovative and key solution for the problem we all might be facing in few years which is not needed but now has become essential for our survival. For this purpose United Kingdom govt. and a charity Nesta announced a Longitude prize of amount £10 million for the researchers to find out a precise, convenient, easy to use and cost effective way to combat this developing menace. Every year, European Antibiotics Awareness Day is celebrated on 18th of November every year. Its a Europe wide public health initiative to spread the awareness about the responsible use of antibiotics.
“We are already seeing this,” says Stuart Levy, director of the Center for Adaptation Genetics and Drug Resistance at Tufts University School of Medicine, who assisted with the WHO report. “For respiratory diseases in Uganda, we had a multidrug-resistant pneumococcus being treated with recommended drugs-but the bacteria were already 90 percent resistant.” Alternative drugs, in that setting, were not readily available.
No doubt bacteria are more innovative and adaptive to harsh condition we might have ever thought of and are now able to develop resistance on all the weapons used to kill them at a much higher speed. Misuse and bad practices exaggerated the problem and it is expected that soon we lost this battle against these pathogens. However, with research, education and through awareness among public along with better and strict rules and regulations for the use and disuse of antibiotics this threat can be overcome. Many strategies are in the pipeline for the finding of new and more powerful antibiotics compounds. If we all want to live a better and healthy life with medical luxury then we all have to be more vigilant and conscience about the threat now we are facing with.
The writers are a) BS.Biotechnology and b) Assistant Professor in Department of BI and Biotechnology, International Islamic University, Islamabad. They can be reached at: <email@example.com> or <firstname.lastname@example.org>