Antibiotic Resistance and Us [Infographic]December 12, 2018
Since antibiotics were first discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming, they’ve become an essential weapon in our fight against disease. Previously fatal or severely disabling infections became treatable, revolutionising healthcare and improving the quality of life for people worldwide. For example, before antibiotics 90% of children with bacterial meningitis die. Today with treatment, this figure is 20-30% for newborns, and just 2% for older children.
As well as their use in combating infections, antibiotics also help to make operations far less risky, boost the immune system during chemotherapy, and protect people and babies in intensive care against dangerous illnesses. They are truly an indispensable treatment.
However, we are now facing a crisis that could reverse this hard-earned progress. Antibiotic resistance - where bacteria develop immunity to antibiotics - is on the rise. Superbugs like MRSA are an ever increasing threat, with 700,000 people dying globally from antibiotic resistant bugs.
Systematic misuse and overuse of antibiotics, both to treat illnesses and in the agricultural industry, have led to this problem. A major issue is using antibiotics to treat viral infections like the flu and the common cold. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, and should only be used to treat bacterial infections. However, 30% of antibiotics prescribed by doctors are thought to be unnecessary.
Meanwhile, in farming, healthy animals are often pumped full of antibiotics to prevent infection and speed up growth. This use has been identified as excessive and ‘a threat to human health’.
If left unchecked, drug resistance could lead to a so-called antibiotic apocalypse. In this catastrophic scenario, antibiotics could become totally ineffective and routine operations could become incredibly risky, whilst minor wounds and infections could kill.
To learn more about this growing threat, and what you can do to tackle it, take a look at the infographic we’ve put together. It contains all the key information you need about antibiotic resistance, including essential statistics and the steps we can all take to halt antimicrobial resistance in its tracks.
If you prefer your information as text, click here to see a full transcript of the infographic.
WHAT ARE ANTIBIOTICS?
- Antibiotics are medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections such as kidney infections, chest infections, infected wounds and skin infections.
- Stronger antibiotics may also be used for more serious infections like septicemia and meningitis, as well as to prevent infections in people undergoing operations in hospitals.
- They are an essential weapon in fighting disease and protecting health - and one we cannot afford to lose.
Unnecessary Antibiotic Prescriptions - The Statistics
Unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions in 2015, by age:
- 0 - 19 years - 29%
- 20 - 64 years - 35%
- 65 years and above - 18%
30% of all prescriptions written by doctors were found to be unnecessary. The result? Antibiotic resistance.
What is antibiotic resistance?
- Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria do not get killed, but resist the drugs built to kill them. The resistant bacteria then continue to multiply and cause serious, untreatable infections.
- Antibiotic resistant bacteria include E.Coli and MRSA.
- This is one of the biggest threats to global health and the progress of modern medicine.
WHAT CAUSES ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE?
- Using antibiotics to treat viral infections like the flu and common cold.
- Not completing courses of antibiotics, allowing bacteria to become resistant.
- Taking antibiotics prescribed for someone else.
- Overuse of antibiotics in farming.
- Overprescription of antibiotics.
Antibiotic resistance and its consequences
- Systematic misuse and overuse of antibiotics can be a cause of great risk.
- Across Europe, approximately 25,000 people die each year as a result of hospital infections caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria.
- Around 700,000 people die globally each year from antibiotic resistant superbugs.
- People with MRSA are 64% more likely to die than people with a non-resistant strain.
- It has been 30 years since a new class of antibiotics was created.
- Only 3 out of 41 antibiotics currently in development have the potential to treat antibiotic resistant infections.
- It’s been estimated that antibiotic resistance could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050 and cost £66 trillion.
Combating Antibiotic Resistance
With their ‘Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistant’, WHO has made it their aim to combat antibiotic resistance. The organisation has invested heavily in research and development to do away with this ever-growing threat.
Let’s look at some preliminary steps which we can take at all levels to restrict the speed of antibiotic resistance:
On an individual level
- Self medication or over-medication can be deadly, especially when it comes to antibiotics.
- Prevent infections by practising good hygiene like washing hands, avoiding close contact with sick people, keeping vaccinations up to date etc
- Prepare food hygienically by following the WHO 5 Keys to Safer Food (Keep clean. Separate raw and cooked food. Cook thoroughly. Keep food at safe temperatures. Use safe water and raw materials.)
On a professional level (health industry)
- Ensuring clean hands, instruments, and environments.
- Prescribing antibiotics only when absolutely required - follow industry guidelines.
- Reporting antibiotic resistant infections to surveillance teams immediately.
- Talking to patients about the correct dosage of antibiotics, and best practices for preventing infections.
The onus also lies on Preventative Policy Makers and the agricultural sector to tackle this issue.
Though the problem may seem simple, it is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development in today’s world.
Get informed, take antibiotics only when necessary, and help to protect the world from antibiotic resistance.