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Antimicrobial resistance occurs when certain bacteria carry genes that happen to be resistant to a specific antibiotic - the antibiotic will kill all susceptible bacteria, allowing the resistant strains to spread. When the antibiotic is next used it will be ineffective against the large population of resistant bacteria, and the infection will worsen, and in some cases become untreatable.
The development of resistance genes is inevitable, it is just survival of the fittest. For example, methicillin was introduced in 1959 and MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) was first detected in 1961. But our over use of antibiotics in human and veterinary medicine is promoting the spread of these resistant bacteria and creating new emerging strains. The close association between us humans and our pets means that bacteria are constantly being transferred in both directions; and that means the resistant strains too.
Doctors and vets are all being encouraged to use antibiotics appropriately and only if absolutely necessary, but is it already too late? Do we have one too many 'superbug'? Since the prevalence of antimicrobial resistance has increased, it is estimated that by 2050 this could result in an annual toll of 10 million deaths worldwide.
So, what does responsible antibiotic use actually mean:
And of course improving general hygiene will help in limiting bacterial spread as well.
So the next time you take your dog to the vet for a cut on his foot, and get frustrated that 'all the vet did was clean it out', think about the thought processes that went on by that vet in deciding whether antibiotics were actually necessary. Or when you take your cat to the vet for a runny nose and no 'generic long-acting antibiotic injection' was given, think about how that vet is being responsible for not using antibiotics for a condition that is likely caused by a virus. Never be scared to discuss the treatment plan with your vet, and ask about ways that you may be able to help in the fight against antibiotic resistance.