We’ve all gotten sick before. It is never fun, but we always feel like we can count on the ability to go to a doctor and get some antibiotics to feel better. That class of drugs is specifically designed to help kill the unwelcome bacteria in our bodies and leave us feeling our best as quickly as possible. Lately, there has been a growing concern over the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria. These strains of bacteria are capable of either ignoring or being largely unaffected by standard antibiotic treatments. This threatens the very foundations of what most of us view as modern healthcare. Without antibiotics, our bodies will have to fight off all of the bacteria on their own, infections would be more common, and simple illnesses could quickly become a source of worry for everyone. There are many reasons we’re seeing such a rapid rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria, but there are a few common ones that we can all control our own lives. It is worth making the effort too so that we preserve antibiotics as an invaluable tool for future generations.
It seems like there’s always someone who has some hand sanitizer on them. The fast, effective, and, most importantly, waterless way of sanitizing the hands is highly popular for keeping your hands clean without needing to get to a bathroom. How these work tends to depend on the product. Some favor a quickly evaporating solution with anti-bacterial agents while others prefer to use the harsh yet effective approach of using enough alcohol in the product to clean the hand. The problem is that these are contributing to antibiotic resistance thanks to their very common usage everywhere. It ends up meaning there are populations of resistant bacteria that meet regularly as we go throughout our day and touch things. Remember that sanitizers are not 100% effective and ultimately you’re better served by simply washing your hands thoroughly. This will clear away most things from your hands while allowing you to feel confident that said hands are clean enough to interact with the world.
Antibacterial soaps, sprays, wipes, and all the myriad of other products are another problem. These, like the sanitizers, kill many of the bacteria on the surface of objects and our body. The effectiveness is enough to keep us healthy and feeling like we can still touch things after working with raw meat during dinner prep. It is exceedingly unfortunate that these end up contributing to the same pool of surviving resistant bacteria that just get worse. The major issue is just how often we use these products. Many of us use antibacterial soap every time we wash our hands. We use wipes to clean up the counter every time instead of just when preparing raw meats. This ubiquity of their use is the problem and the only easy way of countering the problem is to use them less. Not everything has to have antibacterial products used on it to be clean. Remembering this is a small step we can all take to fight the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
The saddest part of the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria is that so many of us are culpable simply for not taking all of our medication. When we go to the doctor, we get prescribed a particular amount of antibiotics to take. Most of us will start feeling better before the medicine is out. That doesn’t mean it is time to stop taking the medication though. The full amount of antibiotics prescribed are used to try to kill as much of the unwelcome bacteria in your body as possible. Your body is generally capable of taking care of the rest, but if you stop taking the antibiotics you will leave a larger group of bacteria who were somewhat resistant in your body. These can, in turn, be passed along only to be subject to a similar treatment later when their descendants infect someone else. In essence, not taking all of our medicine has accelerated the evolution of particular strains of bacteria so that the antibiotic resistant ones are selected for and it makes it harder on us to get rid of them. Keep this in mind the next time you’re prescribed an antibiotic and remember to take all of the medicine.
Antibiotic resistant bacteria are clearly a fact of modern life at this point. We’ve enjoyed widespread use of antibiotics and the improvements they’ve brought to our health for the better part of a century. Unfortunately, taking them for granted has created a situation where we need to be more selective about how we use particular classes of products to avoid entirely removing the benefit of antibiotics. One day we will find a further option for maintaining our health, but for now we shall need to all do what we can to keep our best weapon against bacteria viable.