Overuse of Antibiotics

Posted on December 31, 2005  Comments (6)

Stomach Bug Mutates Into Medical Mystery – Antibiotics, Heartburn Drugs Suspected

Shultz is one of a growing number of young, otherwise healthy Americans who are being stricken by the bacterial infection known as Clostridium difficile — or C. diff — which appears to be spreading rapidly around the country and causing unusually severe, sometimes fatal illness.

“It’s a new phenomenon. It’s just emerging,” said L. Clifford McDonald of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. “We’re very concerned. We know it’s happening, but we’re really not sure why it’s happening or where this is going.”

It may, however, be the latest example of a common, relatively benign bug that has mutated because of the overuse of antibiotics.

Articles on the overuse of anti-biotics are available via the Curious Cat directory. From the US Center for Disease Control – Antibiotic / Antimicrobial Resistance section:

Antibiotic use promotes development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in some way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of drugs, chemicals, or other agents designed to cure or prevent infections. The bacteria survive and continue to multiply causing more harm. Widespread use of antibiotics promotes the spread of antibiotic resistance. While antibiotics should be used to treat bacterial infections, they are not effective against viral infections like the common cold, most sore throats, and the flu.

Unfortunately the continued overuse of antibiotics is increasing the danger of deadly antibiotic resistant bacteria. This problem is a significant challenge not only due to the scope of the consequences (which are huge) but due to the nature of the problem. Many thousands, hundreds of thousands maybe even millions of poor use of antibiotics incrementally put everyone at risks. But each of those individual steps of poor use of antibiotics is by itself not likely to be deadly.

Due to the way we tend to think about problems (searching for one simple cause or thing to blame and fixing that one thing), the cause of antibiotic resistance provides an opportunity for the millions of bad actions to go unchecked. Only after catastrophic consequences are recognized, and put in the proper context, are we likely to give this issue the attention it deserves. Thankfully CDC and others are trying to get us to take this issues seriously now. However, the risks are huge and each person (doctors, patients, consumers [use of antibiotics on animals used as food is a huge part of the problem], government regulators…) taking small actions that make the situation worse often don’t see any need to take more responsibility.

6 Responses to “Overuse of Antibiotics”

  1. CuriousCat: Virtually untreatable TB found
    June 3rd, 2007 @ 10:44 am

    “TB presently causes about 1.7 million deaths a year worldwide, but researchers are worried about the emergence of strains that are resistant to drugs. Drug resistance is caused by poor TB control, through taking the wrong types of drugs for the incorrect duration…

  2. Jeff Flowers
    January 22nd, 2008 @ 1:23 pm

    I’ve always thought that Anti-Biotics are heavily used, Sometimes it’s a very necessary treatment, but like you said… when is it used too much? When is the overuse of Antibiotics doing more harm than good?

  3. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Scientific Illiteracy Leaves Many at Risk in Making Health Care Judgements
    September 8th, 2009 @ 8:17 am

    [...] a scientifically literate society even completely obvious measures like not using antibiotics on viral infections are [...]

  4. Curious Cat Science Blog » Antibiotics, Farming and Superbugs
    May 2nd, 2010 @ 10:03 am

    “Provocative new research from Boston University’s medical school and department of biomedical engineering now suggests, though, that multi-drug resistance can be acquired in one pass, through a different mutational process triggered by sublethal doses of antibiotics – the same sort of doses that are given to animals on farms…”

  5. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Are you ready for a world without antibiotics?
    August 15th, 2010 @ 2:47 pm

    [...] have been writing about the huge risks we are talking with our future for years. The careless misuse of antibiotics is very costly (in human lives, in the future). Bacteria pose great risks to us. We need to take [...]

  6. What Happens If the Overuse of Antibiotics Leads to Them No Longer Working? » Curious Cat Science Blog
    August 9th, 2011 @ 10:05 pm

    Antibiotics have been a miraculous tool to keep up healthy. Like vaccines this full value of this tool is wasted if it is used improperly. Vaccines value is wasted when they are not used enough. Antibiotics lose potency when they are overused…

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