Dr Ranj explains antibiotics resistance on Morning Live
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One of the most common forms of medication is antibiotics, they work by killing bacteria to prevent them from spreading. At their most basic, they are anti-bio, they are anti-life.
However, this comes with some side effects. You see, just as you build up immunity if exposed to a virus, so does a virus build up immunity if exposed to a medication.
This is happening in the world right now with a number of conditions which are developing resistance to antibiotics.
This is all according to GP Dr Bryony Henderson of Livi, who spoke to Express.co.uk about how big the threat is and what we can do about it.
But before we discuss how we can slow down antibiotic resistance, it is more pertinent to discuss which conditions are in the antibiotic resistance firing line. According to Dr Henderson: “As antimicrobials are becoming less effective against strains of bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi, sometimes known as superbugs, we are seeing a growing list of common infectious diseases becoming more difficult to treat and in some cases impossible to treat.
These include tuberculosis, pneumonia, gonorrhoea, HIV, malaria, fungal infections and even some foodborne diseases to name just a few.”
As a result, if this trend continues, more conditions could become untreatable. In the case of gonorrhoea, this is particularly worrisome.
An untreated gonorrhoea infection can have a range of serious complications, particularly for women.
Symptoms of the condition in women include:
• An unusual vaginal discharge
• Pain or a burning sensation when peeing
• Pain or tenderness in the lower abdominal area
• Bleeding between periods, heavier periods, and bleeding after sex.
The main complications for women involve not just their health, but the health of any child they may have.
The NHS says gonorrhoea can increase the risk of a miscarriage, premature labour and birth, and the baby being born with an eye condition known as conjunctivitis.
Furthermore, if said child is not swiftly treated with antibiotics, this can lead to permanent vision loss and blindness.
However, the condition can also affect men who may pass it on if they aren’t aware they have it or it can’t be treated in the future Symptoms in them are:
• An unusual penile discharge
• Pain or burning sensation when peeing
• Swelling of the foreskin
• (Rarely) pain or tenderness in the testicles.
The question many experts are now asking is: “What if there aren’t any antibiotics to treat them?”
To that end, there are ways we can take action, and some positive news coming from the health community.
Dr Henderson said: “Reducing AMR is a complex problem to solve and requires a multi-industry approach across society, from the healthcare industry to policy and legislation and the agricultural sector. But the good news is that there are individual steps we can all take to reduce the impact of AMR.
“For example, you should only take antibiotics if prescribed by your doctor and they should only be used as a last resort where an infection is unlikely to clear up without antibiotics (for example, a Urinary Tract Infection that keeps recurring), or where it could carry a risk of more serious complications.
“You should never share or use leftover antibiotics. In fact, if you’re prescribed antibiotics, you should always finish the course even if you start to feel better.”
Express.co.uk also asked if it would be possible to develop new drugs to combat the new bugs. On this Dr Henderson said: “Innovation and investment into developing new antibiotic drugs that are effective against superbugs will remain an ongoing priority, but despite medicinal advancements, none yet are expected to be effective against the most serious forms of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
“Whilst research and development is ongoing, the most important thing to do is to use the defences we currently have wisely.”
Dr Henderson isn’t the only health official to raise concerns to the Express about antibiotic resistance. In January, Dr Mike Galsworthy said one of the biggest threats the world faced was “antibiotic resistance”.
He added: “This has been a major threat for a long time that people haven’t taken seriously enough. It’s an arms race between ourselves and whatever bacteria can develop resistance to our treatments.”
Furthermore, Dr Galsworthy said one of the reasons why antibiotic resistance had accelerated was because of the widespread use of the drugs in one specific industry: “A larger thing is actually not with humans, but with farming. There is far too much use of antibiotics in farming, just at low level doses in order to make sure problems don’t arise, allowing farmers in many places to overcrowd their animals and so forth and so on.”
As to the consequences of this, Dr Galsworthy added that it could be catastrophic: “If you have for example, a new avian flu that has come out of poultry farms in South America or Asia somewhere and then go around humans and we try to use antibiotics but they’re the antibiotics that they’ve just developed a resistance to, then we really are screwed.”
However, as with Dr Henderson, he was pragmatic about the future: “The best way to combat that is to minimise our use of antibiotics for trivial reasons…to develop that last line of defence which is unused and wind down unnecessary mass use.”
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