The Emergence and fast spread of Antibiotic Resistance

What are antibiotics?

Antibiotics( anti-against, biotics- from small organisms) are natural products produced from bacteria and fungi which kill or inhibit the growth of microorganisms. This means that antibiotics are substances produced from microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi which are used to either kill or inhibit the growth of microorganisms.

For example, the popular drug ‘chloramphenicol’ was gotten from Streptomyces venezuelaeErythromycin was gotten from Streptomyces erythaeusPenicillin was gotten from penicilliumnotatum and Gentamicin from micromonosporapurpureae. ( The words in italics are names of small organisms that causes disease)


What does Antibiotic resistance mean?

Antibiotic resistance also known as antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is said to occur when germs or microorganisms like bacteria and fungi develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. In other words, the microorganisms develop a mechanism that helps them to continue growing instead of being killed by the drug. Antibiotic resistance doesn’t mean the body is becoming resistant to antibiotics but means that bacteria and fungi have become resistant to antibiotics engineered to kill or prevent their growth in our body. This will eventually lead to a failure in treatment.

The first commercialized antibiotic (penicillin) was discovered by Alexander Flemming in 1928. In 1940, about 3% of penicillin resistance by Staphylococcus was identified. Tetracycline resistance by Shigella was later identified in 1959. Since then, there was a rapid emergence and widespread antibiotic resistance globally.

Microorganisms (bacteria and fungi) develop resistance to antimicrobial agent or antibiotics either through spontaneous gene mutation or acquisition of a new gene. By spontaneous mutation it means the microorganisms change their genetic makeup in order to adapt.

Indiscriminate use of antibiotics will serve as a catalyst to further the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance. I was at a pharmacy the other day and a lady entered asking for a suitable antibiotic for her toothache. I was surprised when the person in the pharmacy quickly gave her ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic mostly used to treat typhoid or urinary tract infections. I felt sorry at that moment not just for the lady but the whole human race because that simple act predisposes us to the risks of antibiotic-resistant infections. The popular myth that ampiclox is used for contraception or abortion also adds fuel to the already blazing fire of antibiotic resistance. Careless and indiscriminate use of veterinary antibiotics also increases the chances of resistance.

Few consequences of antibiotic resistance include:

  • Extended hospital stays due to treatment failure.
  • Additional follow up by doctor/pharmacist/nurse.
  • The additional cost of treatment.
  • Toxic alternatives have to be used.
  • Antibiotic-resistant germs are difficult and sometimes impossible to treat.


How can we reduce/slow the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance?

The fight against antibiotic resistance must be a collective effort. It must involve the health practitioners, government, the masses and patients. As individuals, always think of the following:

  • Never use antibiotics to treat viral infections such as influenza, common cold, runny nose, or sore throat. Ask your pharmacists for the best way to feel better.
  • Use antibiotics only when prescribed by a doctor or physician.
  • Complete your prescription even when you start feeling better.
  • Never share an antibiotic with others and never use leftover prescriptions.
  • Remember each time you take an antibiotic when it is not necessary, the effectiveness of the antibiotic decreases and it might not work the next time you really need it.



SAMAILA MUSA DIBAL is a student of pharmacy ABU Zaria, Nigeria. He is also the Assistant Editor-in-chief Well of excellence Global ventures

Misal 2019-06-18 12:17:05

Nicely written