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Here's how bad antibiotic resistance has been in the last 20 years

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Researchers are learning more about the problem with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Getty Images
  • Antibiotic resistance has doubled in the last 20 years.
  • In addition, a new study found that one patient developed antibiotic resistance at last resort for several weeks.
  • Health experts say that prescriptions for antibiotics should only be given when absolutely necessary to avoid growing resistance.

Over the past decade, antibiotic resistance has emerged as one of the biggest public health threats.

Antibiotics have been used for the prevention and treatment of bacterial infections since the 1940s, when doctors first discovered that powerful drugs could save lives.

But in recent decades, it has resulted in overuse and misuse infectious bacteria become resistant of these common remedies. Today, researchers have more details about how serious antibiotic resistance has become and have found evidence that we have reached a frightening new milestone.

New research published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy today revealed that resistance to one of the last drugs used to treat extremely drug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa can develop much faster than we originally thought.

Patient infected with Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa) – a bacterium that can cause a series of infections, including urinary tract infections, bone and joint infections and respiratory infections – developed antibiotic resistance to ceftlozan-tazobactam in just 22 days.

The finding follows another European study, which showed that antibiotic resistance most commonly used to treat a series of gastric infections has almost doubled in 20 years.

In fact, resistance to the most commonly used antibiotics – such as clarithromycin – increases by 1 percent each year, according to the findings, which researchers presented on Monday at UEU Barcelona 2019.

Antibiotics can be extremely useful and even save when used appropriately. But many health experts worry that if we continue to abuse and abuse them, they will lose their ability to cure infections.

"There is concern that persistent antibiotic resistance may not lead to a 'post-antibiotic world' in which infections are no longer treatable. This problem is compared to a global threat to public health at the level it presented climate change, "said Dr. Stanley Deresinski, a doctor at Stanford Health Infectious Diseases, for Health Line.

To measure how resistant the antibiotic population is and identify which treatments may be used in the future, the researchers conducted research on how people responded effectively to various antibiotics in 1998, 2008 and more recently, in 2018.

For the 2018 study, researchers examined 1,232 patients from 18 countries in Europe who were infected with Helicobacter pylori (H. pyloriinfection, a harmful bacterium associated with gastric ulcer, lymphoma and gastric cancer.

Researchers have found that resistance to antimicrobial clarithromycin – commonly used for treatment H. pylori – increased from 9.9 percent in 1998 to 21.6 percent in 2018.

In addition, resistance to other powerful antibiotics has increased significantly. The resistance rate for levofloxacin rose to 17 percent and the metronidazole rate to 42 percent.

Finally, the researchers noted that resistance to amoxicillin, tetracycline and rifampicin compounds increased.

According to the study, resistance rates were highest in Southern Italy (37 percent), Croatia (35 percent) and Greece (30 percent).

Meanwhile, resistance rates in the United States are rising, health experts say.

"To see some countries with over 1/3 of them H. pylori clarithromycin-resistant infections (one of the combinations of antibiotics used to treat H. pylori) is shocking. Things are moving this way in the United States, with estimates of clarithromycin resistance being 19 percent, "said Dr. Arun Swaminat, director of the Bowel Disease Program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

If the United States does not become more cautious with antibiotic use, what is happening in southern Italy and Croatia could soon be our own future, Swaminat said.

The more we use antibiotics, the higher the prevalence of antimicrobial resistance, explains Dr. Richard Martino, an expert on infectious diseases at Yale.

"The use of antibiotics is forcing the evolution of resistant bacteria, and the growth of these resistant bacteria is favored when antibiotics are present," says Martinello.

Essentially, these bacteria mutate in the developed resistance version, allowing them to survive and proliferate in the presence of antibiotics.

And as microbes become more resistant to antibiotics, doctors are encountering a larger number of patients who cannot be treated with antibiotics, Martinello said, adding that this can often lead to death or other potentially permanent health complications.

According to health experts, we should slow down the use of antibiotics and use them only when needed.

"Doctors who prescribe antibiotics should use discretion and prescribe antibiotics only when they can help patients. It is estimated that up to 50 percent of antibiotic prescriptions are for health conditions, such as colds, that will not be helped by antibiotics, "said Martinello.

In addition, patients should also recognize the limitations of antibiotics.

"There is a patient expectation that antibiotics are a cure for colds, sore throats, URIs, diarrhea to name a few," said Dr. Theodore Stroud, a medical associate at Staten Island University Hospital.

Patients must use them only as prescribed and should return any unused antibiotics to their pharmacy.

"Antibiotics are only necessary when indicated for specific bacterial diseases and should be of the appropriate type, at an appropriate dose, [for] appropriate time, ”said Staney. "They are not a 'cure' for everyone."

Antibiotic resistance has emerged as one of the biggest threats to public health in recent years. Now, new research shows how big the threat is.

A new study found that resistance to most commonly used antibiotics has almost doubled in 20 years. Another found that antibiotic resistance develops faster than ever, with one patient only becoming resistant in just 22 days.

Health experts agree that to reduce the problem, people should only use antibiotics when needed.

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