Antibiotic Overuse and the Emergence of the Superbug

In recent times, the phenomenon of antibiotic overuse or misuse is a serious issue that confronts public health. Antibiotics are indiscriminately prescribed by doctors for humans as well as for animals (veterinary medicine) – often without any real need for doing so.


What is antibiotic overuse/misuse?

What this does is, it creates genetic mutations within bacteria so that the bacteria develops a resistance to the antibiotic and the medicine becomes ineffectual against the infection that the bacteria causes.

Very often it is seen that there are antibiotics prescribed even in the case of viral infections.

There is a certain difficulty in determining whether given symptoms are caused by virus or bacteria; but some health care professionals prescribe them regardless.

Antibiotics are not only ineffectual in treating viral infections but they sometimes be unnecessary even in the case of bacterial infections which may not be very severe and which the body may be able to combat without using antibiotics.

It is this indiscriminate overuse of antibiotics is done as and by way of abundant caution but it has the negative effect of creating resistance in the bacteria that is inimical to us.

Consider for instance the fact that common colds cannot be cured by antibiotics, and only about 5 to 10% of bronchitis cases occur due to bacterial infection. The common sore throat is also not helped by antibiotic use.

In many of these cases the infection is self limiting and there is no need or use of prescribing antibiotics and yet they are prescribed in a great number of cases.

It is not just human antibiotic use but also drugs used in veterinary medicine that contribute to the problem of antibiotic resistance. When rearing animals for human food, live stock is routinely fed antibiotics and this causes dangerous infections in people and which also contributes to the drug resistance of bacteria strains.

What is the Superbug?

Sick people or those with sick children tend to demand antibiotics to be prescribed and doctors often do not have the time or the inclination to explain why these are not necessary.

Sometimes it is the physician or doctor who is unaware of when exactly antibiotics are needed that leads to overuse and consequent resistance to antibiotics.

These are the factors that lead to antibiotic resistant organisms; what we colloquially refer to as Superbugs. The fact is that bacteria can and do kill us and we need to take greater care in dealing with treatment of disease.