November 13, 2017

What You Need to Know About Antimicrobial Resistance and Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance and antimicrobial resistance have become an important topical issue in our health systems worldwide because of the enormous costs both to healthcare spending and potential life-threat to the individual patient.

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of antibiotics. While Antimicrobial resistance happens when microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites) change when they are exposed to antimicrobial drugs (such as antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, antimalarials, and antihelmintics). So antimicrobial resistance is a more encompassing topic. You may want to read more on Antibiotic Resistance or also more on Antimicrobial Resistance.

Some microorganisms may develop resistance to a single antimicrobial agent (or related class of agent), while others develop resistance to several antimicrobial agents or classes. These organisms are often referred to as multidrug-resistant or MDR strains. In some cases, the microorganisms have become so resistant that no available antibiotics are effective against them.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria
Image source: Public Health Image Library (PHIL)

Drug Resistance Is Everywhere

Antimicrobial drug resistance occurs everywhere in the world and is neither limited to industrialized or developing nations, nor localized to any particular region of the world. Hospitals and other healthcare settings worldwide are constantly battling drug-resistant organisms that spread inside these institutions.

Drug-resistant infections also spread in the community at large. Examples include drug-resistant pneumonias, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and skin and soft tissue infections.

The Effects of Antimicrobial Drug Resistance Are Far-Reaching

People infected with drug-resistant organisms are more likely to have longer and more expensive hospital stays, and may be more likely to die as a result of the infection.

When the drug of choice for treating their infection doesn’t work, they require treatment with second- or third-choice drugs that may be less effective, more toxic, and more expensive. This means that patients with an antimicrobial-resistant infection may suffer more and pay more for treatment.

Trends in Drug Resistance

(1). Reports of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) — a potentially dangerous type of staph bacteria that is resistant to certain antibiotics and may cause skin and other infections — in persons with no links to healthcare systems have been observed with increasing frequency in the United States and elsewhere around the globe.

(2). The agricultural use of antibiotics in food-producing animals also contributes to the emergence, persistence, and spread of resistant bacteria. Resistant bacteria can be transmitted to humans through the foods we eat.

(3). Multi-drug resistant Klebsiella species and Escherichia coli have been isolated in hospitals throughout the United States and some parts of the world.

(4). Antibiotic-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae infections have significantly declined, but remain a concern in some population of patients.

(5). Antimicrobial resistance is emerging among some fungi, particularly those fungi that cause infections in transplant patients with weakened immune systems.

(6). Antimicrobial resistance has also been noted with some of the drugs used to treat human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections and influenza.

(7). The development of antimicrobial resistance to the drugs used to treat malaria infections has been a continuing problem in many parts of the world for decades. Antimicrobial resistance has developed to a variety of other parasites that cause infection.

What Governments Are Doing

Governments through their agencies e.g. the US government through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), or the UK government through its Department of Health (DH), or similar agencies in other countries, track the emergence of antimicrobial-resistant microorganisms and limits their spread.

The CDC also has several ongoing efforts to prevent the development and transmission of infections that are caused by these organisms through educational programs, campaigns to promote the proper use of antimicrobial agents, and advocacy for vaccine use. This is also being replicated in several other countries through similar agencies.

Each one of us has a role to play in limiting the development and spread of antimicrobial-resistant microorganisms. For further and more detailed information kindly visit the CDC's About Antibiotic Resistance and Use page, the NIH's Antimicrobial (Drug) Resistance page, the WHO's Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance and the WHO's How Much Do You Know About Antibiotic Resistance Quiz.

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