Oh the antibiotic craze. We need them, yet we loathe using them. They can save you, and cause massive havoc on your body, especially if used in addition to other medications such as birth control. How did we become so codependent on them?
The evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is inevitable, but the process is being hastened by overuse of antibiotics. Doctors frequently prescribe antibiotics in situations where they are not needed. In some instances, this is due to a patient’s request, but misdiagnosis is also a common reason for prescribing antibiotics inappropriately. An example of this is strep throat, which can be diagnosed via a swab test. The test can be done in the doctor’s office, and results are usually available within minutes. However, doctors frequently prescribe antibiotics based on symptoms alone. In many cases, people don’t have strep throat; they have viral infections that can’t be treated with antibiotics.
To compare, in 2014 alone, more than 400 drugs were developed to treat chronic diseases. The reason for this is mostly financial. All of the easy and inexpensive to develop antibiotics have been discovered. Therefore, drug companies need to spend large amounts of time and money to research and develop new ones. Even assuming a new antibiotic is found, something that is likely to involve great expense, the FDA still may not approve it if there are severe side effects. Furthermore, even assuming a drug does get the green light, the process takes an average of 12 years. The good news is that drug companies are starting to develop new antibiotics, and not all infections require an antibiotic for treatment. In the U.S., there are about 40 new antibiotic drugs currently being tested and developed. Two solutions being suggested to help deal with the increasing number of strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are reducing the unnecessary use of antibiotics and encouraging the development of new medications and antibiotics.
Doctors are strongly urged to run tests to verify that antibiotics are actually needed to treat a particular infection or that a bacterial, not viral, infection is present. This may involve educating the population so that people understand that not only are antibiotics not always needed, overuse can hamper the efficacy of treatments. Due to the nature of bacteria, antibiotic-resistant strains will continue to develop, but much can be done to slow the process. Additionally, new drugs can help to fill in the gaps when treatments are ineffective. When in doubt, do your research and always consult with your doctor.