Take all of the Antibiotics?

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 2 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year. 23,000 of them die as a result of these once treatable infections. Bacteria have learned how to resist these drugs. Some now expel the antibiotic before it can work, others neutralize the drug, and others still mutate so that the antibiotic doesn’t recognize the bacteria.

Some of the diseases that we were once able to treat and cure with antibiotics, such as gonorrhea, syphilis, E Coli, and tuberculosis, are all coming back with resistant strains. Over 700,000 people die globally each year due to these drug resistant infections, and, by 2050, an estimated 10 million will die annually if no action is taken. Roughly 25% of antibiotic prescriptions are thought to be unnecessary.

However, we are on the right track. There were 2.7 million more antibiotic prescriptions in 2015 compared to 2016, indicating more conscious prescribing of these vital infection-fighters. However, a group of infectious disease experts, lead by Martin Llewelyn, professor of infectious diseases at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, has recently said that the length of prescription treatment must change. The mantra of “completing the course” when it comes to antibiotics began with Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin. Fleming found that the bacteria, when treated with penicillin, would acclimatize to the antibiotic, so he recommended completing the full dose so that new, more dangerous strains were not transmitted.

Experts are now saying that this is a myth and that over-taking antibiotics could be one of the culprits of rising antibiotic resistance. Using recent studies that evaluate shorter drug courses, they have found this to be as effective as longer course treatments, and without the dangerous build-up of bacteria on the skin or other side effects that could lead to other health problems.

While experts are calling for shorter courses, doctors are wary. Many people already do not complete their course of antibiotics, and doctors worry that patients may stop taking the prescribed medicine before they have completely beaten the infection. Instead, a solution would be to find a natural alternative to antibiotics, especially in agriculture. Studies have shown that neem works as an effective antibacterial.