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The Terrifying Reality of Antibiotic Resistance

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at BU chapter.

Antibiotic resistance is a systemic, global issue that many are unaware of. But this issue will have calamitous ramifications if not addressed urgently. 

To provide you with some background, antibiotics kill germs and bacteria. But some bacteria are able to use resistance mechanisms to fight the antibiotic and survive. These bacteria then grow stronger and multiply. Bacteria often carry resistance genes in their plasmids and can transfer-resistant DNA to other bacteria.

two test tubes in blue holder
Photo by Martin Lopez from Pexels
A growing number of infections are becoming increasingly difficult to treat as more and more antibiotics lose their efficacy. In the modern, interconnected world, it is easy for new strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria to spread to all parts of the world. Antibiotic resistance has resulted in prolonged hospital stays, increased medical costs, and increased mortality. According to the CDC, over 35,000 people die due to an infection caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year. The crisis has been a major economic burden on the United States for several years. If antibiotic resistance goes unaddressed, the world will revert to an era of unimaginable suffering. An era characterized by people dying from infections that were once treatable, such as tetanus, smallpox, tuberculosis, and typhus. 

Antibiotic resistance is a naturally occurring process; however, there are many factors that have accelerated the process. One factor is the prevalent misuse and overuse of antibiotics. Doctors are very busy people, so when a patient comes into the office self-diagnosed, demanding an antibiotic, it is easy to just write them a prescription and be done. Overprescription is exacerbating the problem by exposing more germs to the antibiotic, thus encouraging the transfer of antimicrobial resistance to other germs through DNA.   

Woman looking into a microscope
Photo by Edward Jenner from Pexels
Another source of the overuse of antibiotics is within the agricultural sector. Many farmers believe that feeding antibiotics to their livestock will maintain their health and promote growth, despite the fact that this is false. Most of the antibiotics fed to cows are excreted through urine and stool. The stool is turned into fertilizer and put on all over crops, and When it rains, surface runoff results in the antibiotics being disseminated into streams and into the water supply. 

Until recent years, new antibiotics were being created and averting the crisis of antimicrobial resistance. However, the pharmaceutical industry is less inclined to develop antibiotics due to the lack of economic incentives. 15 out of the 18 big pharmaceutical companies have quit the antibiotic field, according to an article by Pharmacy and Therapeutics. Antibiotics are only taken for a few weeks and are curative in nature. Pharmaceutical companies are more likely to develop drugs for chronic diseases, such as diabetes and asthma, as people will take these drugs for many years and the company will make more of a profit. 

Antibiotic resistance is a multi-faceted issue that requires a multi-faceted solution. Governments, health care providers, hospitals, and society as a whole need to make a deliberate and collective effort to address a crisis that has the potential to cause mass devastation and suffering for future generations if gone unaddressed. 

Although this topic tends to fly under the radar, it’s important for all of us to know the catastrophic effects it could have. 

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Marena is a sophomore at Boston University studying psychology and journalism. Outside of HCBU, her interests include creative writing, singing, and adventure! Find her on Instagram @marenamosher