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9 eye-opening facts about antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic use in livestock and antibacterial soaps

In the US, 70 percent of all antibiotics sold are used to fight off infections in livestock and increase their growth. Antibiotics are used in the farming of fish, shrimp, and fruits like apples, pears, and citrus.

With the pandemic, many people are using antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizer gels, which is the right thing while the virus is a threat. In the long run, it could cause resistance to antibiotics.

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9 eye-opening facts about antibiotic resistance

9 eye-opening facts about antibiotic resistance

https://ideas.ted.com/9-fascinating-facts-about-antibiotic-resistance-and-1-hopeful-approach-to-overcoming-it/

ideas.ted.com

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Key Ideas

Antibiotic resistance

Antibiotics may lose their ability to treat bacterial infections.

Scientists have been warning us about the alarming rise in drug-resistant bacteria, but it can be curbed.

Penicillin

  • Penicillin was the first widely-used antibiotic. It was discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming, a bacteriologist.
  • He noticed that the staph cells he'd been studying in a petri dish had died, and an unusual mold was growing in it.
  • The mould was purified and tested in 1940, and later mass-produced.
  • By 1943, the US was supplying all the Allied forces with this miracle drug, which gave them an advantage in treating injuries.

Existing antibiotics found in the dirt

  • An agriculture student-turned-microbiologist, Selman Waksman, tested 10,000 soil samples over the years.
  • In 1943, he identified streptomycin, a broad-spectrum antibiotic effective against tuberculosis.
  • Drug companies caught on to it, and commissioned pilots, explorers, and foreign correspondents sent back soil samples as they traveled, collecting dozens of new antibiotics.
  • By 1970, researchers found themselves discovering the same molecules over and over.

Discovery slowed while bacteria are growing resistant

Over the last 40 years, few new antibiotics were discovered. At the same time, bacteria are developing antibiotic resistance, where antibiotics are less able to damage the cells of bacteria.

  • Vancomycin was first prescribed in 1972, and then vancomycin-resistant bacteria surfaced in 1988.
  • Imipenem came out in 1985, and resistance was seen in 1998.
  • Daptomycin came out in 2003, and resistance was noticed by 2004.

Superbugs

Antibiotics work by attacking a bacteria cell. If the bacteria are not killed, the cell will fight for survival. The use of an antibiotic then increases the possibility of a bacteria cell mutating to gain resistance.

Resistant cells pass on the new coding to their offspring and to other bacteria. Some communities of cells have resistance to multiple antibiotics, known as superbugs.

Antibiotics are overprescribed

According to the US Center for Disease Control, 30 percent of antibiotic prescriptions in the US are unnecessary.

Knowing that bacteria can build resistance, the best solution for ensuring that antibiotics stay effective is to use them sparingly.

Antibiotic use in livestock and antibacterial soaps

In the US, 70 percent of all antibiotics sold are used to fight off infections in livestock and increase their growth. Antibiotics are used in the farming of fish, shrimp, and fruits like apples, pears, and citrus.

With the pandemic, many people are using antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizer gels, which is the right thing while the virus is a threat. In the long run, it could cause resistance to antibiotics.

Antibiotic-resistant diseases keep rising

A 2019 report from the World Health Organization pointed out that at least 700,000 people are dying of drug-resistant diseases each year.

The number could rise to 10 million annually by 2050, making antibiotic-resistant infections more deadly than cancer.

A promising antibiotic

Artificial intelligence has helped to find the first new broad-spectrum antibiotic, named Halicin.

Halicin kills E.coli, M. tuberculosis, and others, and is effective against the antibiotic-resistant bacteria that cause sepsis and pneumonia. Halicin doesn't look like other antibiotics we are familiar with and doesn't appear to trigger mutations as other antibiotics do.

We can each do our part in avoiding antibiotic resistance

Next time you're sick, double-check with your doctor to ensure an antibiotic is necessary. If it is, follow the prescription instructions to kill the bacteria and prevent mutation.

You can also seek out antibiotic-free meat and plain soap rather than antibacterial ones. Plain soap is just as effective on virus particles.

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