For a period in recent history, antibiotics have been announced as the most effective treatment for infectious diseases. Most of these diseases were caused by bacteria, so using drugs that killed harmful bacteria was a sensible and practical solution. However, there is no clear indication that anyone in the medical or scientific community has seen the rapid development of antibiotic resistance. Even if someone did, history certainly doesn’t reflect it as well. Regardless of the past slip, it is now clear that the typical antibiotic now has a limited lifespan and becomes almost unusable once the bacterial agent they are targeting has developed resistance to their effects. This was the case with tuberculosis, which was previously thought to be wiped out in developed countries, and with many other bacterial infections.
The problem of dealing with antibiotic resistance is complex. Some bacterial agents have only developed resistance to certain agents – although these agents are prescribed as a treatment. Other microbes, on the other hand, have developed effective antibiotic resistance to all antimicrobial agents currently available on the market. Some health authorities fear that this situation will cause major problems. A number of experts point out that the gradual increase in resistant cases of tuberculosis is an indication of the possible harm this problem can cause. As tuberculosis is resistant to all drugs currently used against it, treating patients with the resistant strain is becoming increasingly difficult and the disease is becoming more and more fatal.
A single disease with antibiotic resistance doesn’t make a big public health problem. Most medical authorities would not be concerned if there was no evidence that other bacterial infections are as resistant to the cold as they are. The common cold has long been a problem for medicine, so it has long been considered impossible to develop a cure for it. The bacteria at the root of the cold adapt quickly and become resistant to the effects of medication that was used to treat the previous year. While there is hardly anything life-threatening, there is a very high chance that other, more dangerous bacteria with the same adaptability will occur. Another possible scenario is that several bacteria develop resistance and come back to the public. Their infectious nature and resistance to antibiotics, as well as the relative degree of congestion in the average urban area, almost guarantee a rapid spread of the infection.
If this sounds like a bad plot for a doomsday scenario in a science fiction novel, it’s because these scenarios may not be that far from the goal. Bacterial adaptation to countermeasures against them is much faster than the speed at which researchers can develop new antibiotics. For example, a hospital in Switzerland found that the strains of Escherichia coli they encountered developed resistance to all five known types of antibacterial agents within three years. They also found that this sudden increase in resistance was linked to the increased use of these antimicrobials, which has led some to believe that the success and widespread use of antibiotics are the main cause of the problem. The more bacteria exposed to the drug, the greater the likelihood that a mutant strain will emerge that is resistant to the effects.
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