Discuss why disease-causing bacteria are resistant to antibiotics and what can the medical profession in South Africa do about it?
Bacteria are single-celled minute organisms found inside and outside our bodies. Most bacteria is very useful and good for us such as the bacteria found in each person’s digestive tract. This bacteria is important as it breaks down food so that nutrients can be absorbed and it also helps to fight the bad bacteria that causes infection and disease. Bacteria that is not good for us causes infection such as tuberculosis, ear infections, pneumonia and even food poisoning. This is disease causing bacteria. It is not only bacteria that cause illness however, as some infections such as colds and flu are caused by different even smaller organisms called viruses. Viruses invade healthy cells and reproduce and in this way they cause infections.
Antibiotics are drugs that fight infections and disease caused by bacteria. Antibiotics are prescribed by doctors for bacterial infections. They cannot be bought over the counter and you therefore need a prescription from a doctor to be able to buy them. They have no impact on viruses and should therefore not be prescribed where there is no bacterial infection.
Antibiotic resistance is when bacteria starts to resist the effects of an antibiotic. It means that the antibiotic will no longer work to kill off the bacteria because the bacteria has mutated to a different form and the antibiotic doesn’t recognise it any more. Over time therefore the antibiotic no longer works to fight the bacterial infection and stronger and stronger antibiotics are needed.
There are several reasons bacteria become resistant to antibiotics and I will now explain these:
1. Full course of antibiotic is not taken
When you take an antibiotic it first fights the weaker bacteria and the stronger bacteria keeps going and is more difficult to kill. The antibiotic therefore needs to be taken for long enough to ensure that it kills all the bacteria including the stronger bacteria. If the course of antibiotics is stopped before all the bacteria have been killed, the stronger bacteria will keep going and even change their form and start to develop a resistance to the antibiotic. So many people I know stop taking the antibiotic as soon as they start feeling better. As they feel better they think they no longer need medicine. Also, as they don’t like the potential side-effects of taking too many antibiotics they feel it is better to stop taking them as soon as they start feeling better. As explained above however it is important that the full course of antibiotics prescribed is taken even if you are feeling better.
2. Antibiotics taken unnecessarily
Another reason bacteria becomes resistant to antibiotics is where antibiotics are taken unnecessarily. For example as mentioned above, antibiotics do not affect viruses and therefore doctors should not prescribe antibiotics for viral infections such as the common...