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Antibiotics: Are they helpful or harmful?

The answer to both is: Yes!

Over 85 years ago, the first antibiotic was invented. Even back then, they knew that antibiotics would change the world. Antibiotics can help treat minor infections, like urinary or respiratory tract infections; they can also help people who have sepsis, an entire body response to an infection.

Infections are caused by microorganisms, such as viruses, fungi, parasites, and bacteria. Antibiotics are medications that strictly slow or destroy the growth of bacteria. When we use antibiotics to treat infections, we are exposing these microorganisms in our environment to these antibiotics as well. By doing this, they can mutate and actually become resistant to the antibiotics that we have. Think of it like an offensive play in football- if the defense (bacteria) learns what play (antibiotics) you are going to run, they might just run right through the offensive line and sack the quarterback.

A report from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in 2013 showed more than 2 million people in the United States alone became ill every year as a result of antibiotic resistant infections. Even more surprising, was that an estimated 23,000 people die yearly from these infections.

Antibiotics are extremely helpful when they are used in the right setting; however they are often prescribed for no useful purpose. Too many antibiotics are prescribed for viral infections, such as colds, flu, and diarrhea. This may be done because of a poor understanding of what antibiotics really do, and when they are indicated. It could also be a result of physicians wanting to satisfy their patients with some form of treatment after an office visit, instead of recommending over the counter therapies. Regardless of the underlying reasons, all potential causes for inappropriate antibiotic use must be considered.

Antibiotics are an important part of modern medicine. They are the reason we can survive infections that people frequently died from in the past. By using antibiotics appropriately we can help decrease their resistance, prolong their effectiveness, and prevent the development of infections for which we do not have treatment.

Citation: Whiteman, Honor. “Antibiotic Resistance: How Has It Become a Global Threat to Public Health?” Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, 10 Sept. 2014. Web. 20 Sept. 2014.

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