The History of Antibiotic Resistance
The evolution of microbial bacteria has come a long way since Alexander Fleming’s triumphant discovery of penicillin in 1929. After accepting his Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1945, Alexander Fleming warned against the misuse of antibiotics. He was afraid, even back in those days, that people may ignorantly underdose on antibiotics and not destroy all of the deadly pathogens in their bodies, leading to the evolution of antibiotic-resistant qualities in some deadly bacteria. In 1947, only four years after penicillin was mass-produced, staphylococcus aureus, a common bacterium found on human skin and mucus membranes, was found to be the first penicillin-resistant bacterium. Many other bacteria have developed a resistance to common antibiotics since then including pseudomonas aeruginosa, commonly found in soil and water, and neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacterium that can cause the infection gonorrhea.
Annual Death from Antibiotic-Resistant Infections: 23,000
In 1998, in the United States, 80 million prescriptions of antibiotics for human use were filled. This equates to 12,500 tons of antibiotics in one year. This number doesn’t take into consideration the 18 tons of antibiotics that are provided for animals and agriculture. Nowadays, about 70 percent of the bacteria that cause infections in hospitals are resistant to at least one antibiotic drug commonly used for treatment. According to the CDC’s national data summary on antibiotic resistance from 2013, at least two million Americans fall ill from antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year and 23,000 people die from those infections.
What Can You Do about It?
We can cut down on constantly using antibacterial soap. Regular soap will do just fine for hand-washing in most households. The use of antibiotics is slowly being reduced in agriculture as people buy more antibiotic-free meat and dairy products. We should also only resort to antibiotics when our bodies are absolutely unable to fight off infections on their own. Remember, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and the same goes for bacteria. Just in case you come down with a super bug, here are a few super antibiotics that are used to fight super bugs.
3 Drugs Used to Fight Super Bugs
Zyvox, or linezolid in its generic form, is a synthetic antibiotic approved in the year 2000 to treat serious infections caused by bacteria that are resistant to several antibiotics. Zyvox works by inhibiting protein synthesis (a process necessary for cell growth and reproduction) in bacteria. Many antibiotics work by inhibiting protein synthesis, but Zyvox differs from traditional antibiotics in that it stops protein synthesis in the initiation stage.
Vancomycin is a naturally-occurring antibiotic that is produced through fermentation. It is not as new as Zyvox, and was originally produced to kill bacteria with a resistance to penicillin, but it is still more effective than some traditional antibiotics. It is given as an injection and also as a capsule to treat a wide variety of serious infections. Vancomycin works by inhibiting cell wall synthesis in deadly bacteria.
Primaxin, or imipenem/cilastatinin in its generic form, has the ability to kill a wide variety of bacteria. Imipenem is the antibiotic agent in this medication and it works by interfering with bacteria’s ability to form cell walls. This causes the bacteria to break up and die. Primaxin is commonly used to treat serious lower respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, intra-abdominal infections, and gynecologic infections among others.