Optalgin (illustration)
Optalgin (illustration)Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Micro-bacteria and other pathogens have always evolved to resist the new drugs that medicine has used to combat them. With the increased use and misuse of antibiotics, many microbes and bacteria have become resistant to modern medical treatment, causing diseases that were once easily curable to require stronger medication and more costly medical attention than they did before. What is worse, many of the diseases caused by these bacteria are becoming  immune, which will cause them to be incurable, and mortality rates to rise.

According to a recent study 300 million people will be killed prematurely by 2050 due to anti-microbial resistance.

“Resistance has increasingly become a problem in recent years because the pace at which we are discovering novel antibiotics has slowed drastically, while antibiotic use is rising. And it is not just a problem confined to bacteria, but all microbes that have the potential to mutate and render our drugs ineffective. The great strides forward made over the past few decades to manage malaria and HIV could be reversed, with these diseases once again spiraling out of control,” reads The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance,  which was chaired by renowned economist Jim O’Neill.

The damaging effects of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) are already manifesting themselves across the world. Antimicrobial-resistant infections currently claim at least 50,000 lives each year across Europe and the US alone. In other parts of the world, many hundreds of thousands more are dying annually.

Dr. Moriah Ellen an Associate Professor in the Jerusalem College of Technology and a Senior Researcher at the Gertner National Institute for Health Policy in Israel spoke to Arutz Sheva about the dangers that AMR poses to Israelis and what can be done about it.

“We know that microbes are becoming more and more resistant to antibiotics, and that humans are a big part of the problem.”

According to the report, global consumption of antibiotics in human medicine rose by nearly 40% between 2000 and 2010, but this figure masks patterns of declining usage in some countries and rapid growth in others.

Ellen said that part of the problem of this increase is due to the fact that people are taking too many antibiotics for issues that are viral rather than bacteria related.

Dr. Moriah Ellen
Dr. Moriah EllenCourtesy: Moriah Ellen

Likewise, the report confirmed that “any use of antimicrobials, however appropriate and conservative, contributes to the development of resistance, but widespread unnecessary and excessive use makes it worse.”

But another big part of the problem is the food industry, especially agriculture and poultry where they utilize a lot of antibiotics in the food. “When antibiotics are used in food, the microbes that are present become resistant to the antibiotics,” Ellen warned. When that happens and these microbes can mutate into immune streams of diseases which can be harmful for human health.  

“The more we use antibiotics, and the more we misuse them at the current rate, the less effective they will become in treating diseases that are currently treatable,” Ellen said.  

Ellen also pointed out that this issue is global, not regional. When a strain of a disease becomes immune to antibiotics in North America, it can and likely will transfer rapidly to other parts of the world. Once a bacteria becomes immune, it becomes resistant everywhere.

Ellen offered some advice to help combat the rapid rate of AMR that is developing around the world.

“People should only use anti-biotics when they are absolutely necessary. The overuse of antibiotics is not good for us as patients as we build up resistance to them as well as the microbial infection.”

“As individuals only take antibiotics when you need them. Antibiotics do not work for viruses or for colds. They only work if you have pneumonia, strep or a UTI. It is definitely wrong for physicians to prescribe it, but it is wrong of patients to demand it as well.”  

Another thing that people can to help combat the problem is to finish all of the pills proscribed to them.  “Even if you only took two, but you got ten, finish them. Don’t stop a dose in the middle. Also don’t share them,” Ellen said.  

Ellen illustrated that the problem is not just a case of patients asking for antibiotics whenever they get sick, but that Doctors are trained to give any and all possible solutions to help their patient. While ot being a bad thing, this has in part led to the complication that the world is now facing due to the threat of AMR.  “It’s not just that one shouldn’t pressure their doctor into giving them anti-biotics for illnesses that don’t require it. But a patient should take a far more active role in their treatment. Actually ask your physician if you really need the drug they prescribed and have a conversation about it. Don’t accept it blindly.”

With regards to the food and agricultural industry, Ellen suggested that people purchase only food that did not receive anti-biotics, and that pressure should be applied to governments to limit the amounts that are being used by the industry. Both Dr. Ellen and the report were optimistic that change can occur and that the coming catastrophe can be averted if action is taken soon to prevent it, both on a global as well as individual scale.