The Biggest Public Health Challenge – Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance has the potential to affect people at any stage of life, as well as the healthcare, veterinary, and agriculture industries, making it one of the world’s most urgent public health problems.

Each year in the U.S., at least 2.8 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria or fungi, and more than 35,000 people die as a result.No one can completely avoid the risk of resistant infections, but some people are at greater risk than others (for example, people with chronic illnesses). If antibiotics lose their effectiveness, then we lose the ability to treat infections and control public health threats.

Many medical advances are dependent on the ability to fight infections using antibiotics, including joint replacements, organ transplants, cancer therapy, and treatment of chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis.

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Where does antibiotic resistance come from?

In a big group of bacteria, a few individual bacteria may naturally have resistance to an antibiotic. However, when that antibiotic is used to treat the infection, the resistant bacteria survive and multiply. Antibiotic resistance is therefore driven by the use of antibiotics. In fact, each time a new antibiotic is introduced, we discover bacteria that are resistant to that antibiotic within a few years.

Antibiotics only work on bacteria. So, when we use antibiotics for viral infections, such as flu and the common cold, they don’t work. Furthermore, they contribute to antibiotic resistance. This is why antibiotics should only be used for bacterial infections.

Appropriate use of antibiotics doesn’t just apply to humans. Animals also need antibiotics to treat infections. However, in agriculture, antibiotics are sometimes used to prevent infections and to promote growth. If the same antibiotics are used for animals as for humans, overuse of antibiotics in animals affects humans too.

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What Providers Can Do To Help

  • Follow the latest clinical practice guidelines for common infections,
  • Identify barriers or high priority conditions that deviate from best practices for antibiotic prescribing which include conditions for which antibiotics are overprescribed or incorrectly prescribed.
  • Use established protocols for antibiotic prescribing that follow national guidelines for appropriate antibiotic use.
  • Educate patients to complete the full, prescribed course of treatment even if they are feeling better, and to notify the prescriber if there is no improvement.
  • Encourage patients to use the antibiotic as instructed.
  • Prescribe an antibiotic only when it is likely to benefit the patient, and only prescribe an antibiotic that targets the bacteria that’s causing the patient’s illness.
  • Collaborate with patients and other members of the care team to promote appropriate antibiotic use.

The “Global action plan on antimicrobial resistance” has 5 strategic objectives:

  • To improve awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance.
  • To strengthen surveillance and research.
  • To reduce the incidence of infection.
  • To optimize the use of antimicrobial medicines.
  • To ensure sustainable investment

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