Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem, both in the United States and across the world. The main driving factors behind antibiotic resistance are the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Antibiotics, antivirals, and other antimicrobials are losing their effectiveness because of antimicrobial resistance, according to the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). Over-prescribing and misuse of antimicrobials play a big role.
Treating resistant infections costs the US healthcare system an estimated $21 billion to $34 billion annually, IDSA said.
Antimicrobial resistance refers to microbes' natural ability to evolve genetically to counter the drugs, according to Amesh Adalja, MD, an IDSA spokesperson.
Here, Dr Adalja additionally offers 5 ways why bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics.
#1. Injudicious use of antibiotics. Antibiotics are increasingly prescribed for illnesses that do not merit treatment with antibiotics such as viral infections. Bacteria that reside in the body are then unnecessarily exposed to antibiotics.
#2. Prescribing antibiotics that are too broad-spectrum. Many times people use "big gun" antibiotics for minor infections that more targeted narrow-spectrum antibiotics would the appropriate choice. Such practices are overkill and needlessly expose bacteria to broad-spectrum antibiotics that should be conserved.
#3. Prescribing antibiotics for too long a duration. Often a short course of antibiotics is sufficient but prescribers are uncomfortable with short durations of treatment, despite studies that show efficacy. The prolonged exposure allows bacteria to evolve resistance.
#4. Prescribing antibiotics without diagnostic testing. Many times physicians may reflexively call in a prescription for an antibiotic over the phone without evaluating the patient or performing diagnostic testing.
#5. Using antibiotics in animals. Often farmers employ antibiotics as growth promoters and this exposure to antibiotics allows the bacteria harbored by animals to evolve resistance.