Why is antibiotic resistance on the rise and why it's scary for you

One of the biggest health risks scientists have raised concerns about in recent years is “antibiotic resistance”.

Antibiotic resistance is a situation that develops when bacteria become resistant to antibiotics.

This makes such medications ineffective, and in fact puts you at an even higher risk of infection.

Antibiotic resistance puts you at a significantly higher risk of developing disease because:

1. Overuse of antibiotics has been shown to weaken your immune system.

2. Resistant bacteria can grow rapidly and overpower antibiotics & your immune system.

What is the cause of antibiotic resistance? There are 2 causes:

1. Overuse of antibiotics by people (doctors prescribing antibiotics too often and often incorrectly).

2. Use of antibiotics in food (herbicides & pesticides sprayed on fruits & vegetables and antibiotics administered to cows, chicken, and even farmed fish).

A recent research piece published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences discovered that even though the risks of antibiotic resistance have been raised numerous times in recent years, antibiotic use by people has risen by 39% worldwide between 2000 and 2015.

The biggest rise is seen in low-income and middle-income countries, such as the Middle East. The use in more developed countries has in fact started to drop.

Why is that the case? It’s hard to tell, but if I were to venture I guess, I would blame 4 factors:

1. Doctors not staying up to date with the latest research (and common problem, especially in the Middle East).

2. Doctors prescribing antibiotics for a virus infection (for example a common “cold”) and not a bacterial infection.

3. Power and money of pharmaceutical companies in pushing the sale of medication.

4. Relatively low level of health awareness of people in general.

Regarding Point 2: antibiotics don’t work on viruses, only bacteria. Most common “colds” are viral in nature, not bacterial.

So if you take antibiotics for a “cold”, 2 things will happen:

1. The antibiotics will weaken your immune system, so it is less capable of fighting the virus.

2. You increase the risk of antibiotic resistance, increasing the chance of infections in the future.

How to minimize the risks of developing antibiotic resistance:

1. Avoid fruits & vegetables sprayed with herbicides & pesticides: eat organic when you can.

2. Avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics: ask your doctor if your infection is viral or bacterial before agreeing to take antibiotics.

3. Focus on strengthening your immune system (I haven’t taken any antibiotics at all since 2006).