Antibiotics represent the number one method for people to fight against bacterial infections. The discovery and improvement of antibiotics has gone a long way to extending the lifespan of millions and perhaps billions of people.
Alas, we are discovering that antibiotics lose their effectiveness over time. It all has to do with the concept of survival of the fittest. When first introduced to bacteria, an antibiotic is all powerful and able to wipe out the bacteria. Over time, however, the bacterium found in the environment slowly evolves until it reaches a point where the antibiotic no longer does the job.
There is a load of criticism being directed towards the medical community regarding the excessive prescribing of antibiotics for situations that do not call for it. For instance, doctors regularly prescribe them for the flu. The problem with this is no antibiotic fights the cause of the flu.
So, who cares if the antibiotics are being used to often? Well, all of us should care. The more the antibiotics are used, the quicker bacterium begins to develop resistances to the drugs. Soon, you have a form of bacteria that is very difficult to fight and even, potentially, impossible to cure.
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A classic example of this problem is being seen with the basic staph infection. Staphylococcus Aureus is a common bacterium that a majority of us have on our bodies now, particularly in our noses. As long as it remains on the exterior of our bodies, it poses no health threat. When it gets into our bodies, it is known as a staph infection.
Staph infections have always been treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, a strain of these bacteria has become resistant to antibiotics. Known as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus or MRSA, the strain now kills 19,000 plus people a year. It is causing kinds of problems in medical facilities and is becoming such a serious problem that NFL players such as Kellen Winslow, Jr., and Peyton Manning have been infected and missed preparation or playing time.
There are still methods for treating these antibiotic-resistant strains, but time may be running out on us. While everyone likes to get worked up about bioterrorism threats and scary, but unlikely, health threat scenarios, the truth is a really scary situation faces us now and nobody is really talking about it. If MRSA, for instance, develops a complete resistance to medications, the consequences would be shocking. Every surgical procedure would run the risk of death by infection.
Is there anything you can do about antibiotic resistance issues? Unless you are a doctor, the answer is probably not. Still, keep yourself informed on the subject as the medical profession has made an effort to keep the problem under wraps.
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