You may have heard something that goes like this “That doctor is not good, I was not given any antibiotics and was sent home with just painkillers and some relievers.” Sounds familiar? It seems that a doctor’s credibility becomes questionable if patients are not prescribed antibiotics for their ailments.
When penicillin was first introduced in the 1940’s, it was perceived as the magic drug as it worked quickly and had less side effects compared to other drugs. However sadly today, antibiotics overuse is now a nationwide issue.
“Malaysians very likely rank among the world’s highest antibiotic users,” said Universiti Sains Malaysia (School of Pharmaceutical Sciences) Prof Mohamed Azmi Ahmad Hassali.
Antibiotics - are they necessary if a person is ill?
Many people do not understand how antibiotics work and perceive it as the wonder drug for all diseases. Some people purchase antibiotics abroad for self-diagnosed illnesses. What is even worse than that is, people who use up the leftover antibiotics found in the family medicine box. I have to emphasise that there are trillions of bacterial strains that can cause you to fall sick and there is a specific antibiotic for each treatment.
What you should know about antibiotics
What is an antibiotic? Antibiotics act only on bacteria and there are 2 types of bacteria- good bacteria (the hero) and bad bacteria (the villain). The good bacteria grow in a healthy symbiotic environment with food, space and so on. Your intestine has 300 to 500 bacterial species, comprising nearly 2 million genes. Good bacteria aid in the digestion of food and also act as the protective agent in the gut from the bad bacteria.
On the other hand, bad bacteria are behind a number of serious diseases such as pneumonia (Streptococcus pneumoniae), food poisoning (E.coli and Salmonellae) and many other infections. Hence, antibiotics were designed to kill the bacteria.
Overuse of antibiotics will decrease the efficacy of treatment against harmful diseases, even the mild ones. This is why it’s best to let milder illnesses such as cold and flu caused by viruses to run their course to prevent antibiotic-resistant bacteria from forming.
Common viral infections that do not benefit from antibiotic treatment include:
- Flu (influenza)
- Most coughs
- Most sore throats
- Ear infections
4 Downfalls of Antibiotics Misuse
Antibiotics can upset sensitive gut flora (diarrhea and etc)
When antibiotics are taken to treat harmful infections caused by the bad bacteria, some of the good bacteria population gets destroyed too. This will lead to an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut. Overgrowth of bad bacteria will trigger inflammation and overhauls the gut flora resulting in improper digestion of food, diarrhea, bloating and other gut diseases.
Overpopulation of bacteria causes more infectious diseases
When your body has been overpopulated with bad bacteria, it will develop resistance towards antibiotics. Antibiotics-resistant germs will be harder to kill. Hence, you will be more prone to infections.
Antibiotics are driving up morbidity rates and healthcare costs
When an illness or infection is resistant to the first line and second line treatment of antibiotics, healthcare professionals are forced to use other antibiotics that may be less effective for treatment and may prolong duration of hospitalisation. Prolonged hospitalisation will lead to many other hospital-acquired diseases such as pneumonia and many more.
Aggressive bacteria become stronger bacteria
If bacteria develop resistance to strong antibiotics, it means it can live under aggressive treatment. Strong antibiotics will kill all non-resistant bacteria, which are both good and bad, so the resistant forms of bacteria have less competition and can multiply faster in the human body.
“Take antibiotics safely. Do not misuse antibiotics.”