A Race We Cannot Win

by Russ Greenfield, MD, Medical Director for PurThread

Many factors have contributed to increasing bacterial resistance, but most experts place the blame squarely on us, both healthcare professionals and patients.

As a society, we have grown to believe so fervently in antibiotics that we lost faith in the ability of our bodies to fend off uncomplicated disease. We’ve become overly reliant on drug therapy and continue to use antibiotics when they are not clearly indicated (consider the common cold, where antibiotics have no effect against the viruses behind the illness).

As patients, we might ask our doctor for an antibiotic for most any ailment; we might refuse the “old favorite” in favor of the new “big gun” antibiotic we’ve seen advertised on television (broad scale antibiotics address a wider range of bacteria, but also promote resistance in more organisms); and we might stop taking the antibiotic before completing the entire course of therapy, another action that promotes resistance.

We healthcare practitioners have also relied on antibiotics too much, sometimes reaching for the prescription pad and writing for an antibiotic without a clear indication, but where doing so might reassure our patients, and with the idea that little or no harm would likely come of it. Long-term population effects (antibiotic resistance) was not foremost in our thoughts.

Even the proper use of antibiotics can contribute to development of antibiotic resistance, but another potential contributor might surprise you – significant antibiotic use in agriculture.

Smart people are working on the next great antibiotic but development, testing and research take a long time, and infectious organisms may quickly adapt and defend against drugs new and old. We don’t become resistant to antibiotics; bacteria do, and Mother Nature cannot be outrun for long.

Next, we’ll name names and list common resistant organisms and the illnesses they cause. Take heart – we’ll soon detail how we might better prevent infections.