Antibiotics are prescribed to cure certain infections and kill harmful, disease-causing bacteria. In the realm of modern medicine, antibiotics helped make great leaps and bounds in promoting good health by targeting bacteria and restoring homeostasis in the body. The first antibiotic was penicillin, and it was discovered accidentally through a culture of mold. This revolutionized modern medicine. While there is no denying that antibiotics are effective in preventing the spread of deadly diseases, overuse of them can lead to unintended consequences. Because antibiotics are aggressive, the body's natural balance can easily be thrown off when the drugs are used too often.
Antibiotics do not treat viral infections, only bacterial infections. Strep throat is commonly treated with an antibiotic, but a sore throat caused by a virus is not. Using an antibiotic to treat a viral infection will cause more harm to your body than good, because the antibiotic will still work to rid your body of lots of bacteria... the good and the bad.
Overuse of antibiotics can also aid in the evolution of bad bacteria, making them resistant to the drugs. Those bacteria that have survived the antibiotic can then grow, multiply and pass on those resistant properties to other bacteria. We, then, can spread those antibiotic-resistant bacteria through direct or indirect contact with other people. Meaning, drugs that were once used critically to cure and prevent diseases are now much less effective. Meaning, this is a major public health problem, so says the Better Health Channel. Some bacteria that are capable of causing serious illnesses are now becoming more resistant to some of the most common antibiotics. Harvard Medical School attributes 23,000 deaths each year to the overuse of antibiotics and the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
I'm not taking antibiotics. Am I still at risk? Aside from taking an actual pill, antibiotics can make their way to you through cattle that is raised for meat. According to a report released by the FDA, the amount of antibiotics sold to farmers for their livestock rose 16 percent from 2009 to 2012. Public health experts estimate that 70 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States are used in the meat and dairy industries. Some popular restaurants and groceries in the US, such as Chipotle, are embracing stricter antibiotic policies for their food. CNN released a report that graded top US restaurant chains and how they faired in their use of antibiotics in their meats. Click here to see how some of these restaurants faired.
Researchers at the Moffitt Cancer Center are currently working to reduce the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and are going about this by carefully calculating which sequence of antibiotics should be given to a person. In an article on Science Daily, Daniel Nichol, researcher and graduate student at at the Oxford University Department of Computer Science and Moffitt's Department of Integrated Mathematical Oncology, said that the results of using this mathematical method to carefully sequence antibiotics may help "steer evolution [of bacteria] to a dead end from which resistance cannot emerge."
Antibiotic stewardship, as it is called, now becomes important in maintaining the efficacy of these drugs. Appropriate prescriptions and use of antibiotics can quell the possibility of creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria in your own body. Only use antibiotics prescribed by your doctor, and always take the appropriate dosage. Vaccinate yourself and your kids against certain bacterial infections, such as pertussis (whooping cough). Practice good personal hygiene, which includes washing your hands frequently and covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing. Lastly, ask questions about the food you eat, and always be skeptical about what goes into your body.
>> Read more: Why My Family Is Pro-Vaccination