How many times have you been prescribed antibiotics and didn’t finish the course of treatment? Maybe you were feeling better or thought “I could save the rest of these in case I get sick again.” If so, you are a contributor to the rise of antibiotic resistance — and you might not realize it.
This week, Nov. 16-22, has been designated by the World Health Organization as “World Antibiotic Awareness Week,” designed to increase awareness of global antibiotic resistance and encourage best practices, such as completing a full course of antibiotics when prescribed and not sharing antibiotics prescribed for you with others.
“The rise of antibiotic resistance is a global crisis. It’s one of the greatest threats to health today. This makes a broad range of common infections much more difficult to treat, replacement treatment are more costly, more toxic, and require much longer periods of time for treatment,” WHO director-general Dr. Margaret Chan said in a news conference.
So what does antibiotic resistance really mean to each of us? Imagine common surgeries — like appendectomies or C-sections — putting you at a great risk of infection because the prophylactic antibiotics you were given don’t work. According to an article in last month’s edition of The Atlantic, “If antibiotics became 30 percent less effective when used before surgery, that would result in 120,000 more infections a year, and 6,300 deaths from those infections. And that’s just from the top 10 surgeries and chemotherapy, and only in the U.S.”
The problem of antibiotic resistance highlights the need for new drug development. “We will always need new antibiotics since bacteria are incredibly efficient at developing resistance,” said Tanya Parish, Ph.D., who heads IDRI’s Tuberculosis Drug Discovery program, which is working on developing new drugs to combat TB. IDRI is also working on other bacteria, including MRSA, which has also developed resistance to some commonly used antibiotics.
The bacterium that causes TB has developed resistance to some drugs used to treat the disease, resulting on not only a health toll but an economic toll as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevent estimates direct costs (in 2010 U.S. dollars) average from $17,000 to treat drug-susceptible TB to $430,000 to treat the most drug-resistant form of the disease (XDR TB).
This week, we challenge you to take a few minutes to learn more about antibiotic resistance, how it affects you and what you can do.