Antibiotics have only been being used for several decades of thousands years history of human existence. Today, antibiotic resistance is considered to be one of the most serious problems, which results in the inability to treat bacterial infections with antibacterial agents. Why are antibiotics important? Is antibiotic resistance is really dangerous to humans? It is important to find answers to these and a range of other questions.
How People Used to Treat Bacterial Infections
The first antibiotic was invented in 1928, but bacterial infections have appeared much earlier, and during all their history, people had to deal with those diseases. So, how did they do it without antibiotics?
Bloodletting is one of the methods used by people for more than 3,000 years for the treatment of infections. It started being used in Egypt in 1,000 B.C. until the 1940s. It was recommended to use bloodletting not only for the treatment of bacterial infections but also for many other health conditions. This method is based on a medical theory that the four bodily fluids, such as phlegm, blood, yellow and black bile must be balanced for a person to be healthy. It was believed that infections would increase the value of blood, and that is why it had to be removed from the body. Barbers (not doctors) would use an incision in an artery or vein as well as cupping, during which they would put heated cups on the skin to create a vacuum, which broke small blood vessels and caused bleeding. Leeches used to be used for bloodletting as well. This method was able to treat people with infections caused by some bacteria at an initial stage of the disease. Many bacteria have to use iron to reproduce, and the lesser amount of blood carries lesser iron, which does not allow the bacterial infections to sustain.
Another method used for the treatment of different infections, including bacterial was naturally occurring chemical compounds. During the American Civil War, people would use iodine, compounds with mercury, and bromine for the treatment of infected wounds and gangrene. Most often bromine was used, but it caused too much pain when it was applied to the wound or injected inside. Also, it caused damage to soft tissues. Although this method was effective for preventing bacteria from replication, it could also destroy normal cells. From 1363 to 1910, mercury compounds were widely used for the treatment of syphilis. These compounds could be injected, taken orally or applied on the skin. Unfortunately, this method caused lots of side effects, damaging skin, kidney, mucous membranes, and brain.
Herbal remedies used to be used as well as for the treatment of infections. Quinine was one of the most popular remedies, which was especially popular for the treatment of malaria. It was obtained by isolating from the cinchona tree growing in South America. Today, quinine is available in a synthetic form and also used for the treatment of various diseases. Among other similar remedies were artemisinin, Manuka honey, and others.
How Do People Treat Bacterial Infections Today?
Today people use antibiotics for managing various bacterial infections. Not only is it less painful than those methods that used to be used, but it is more effective and convenient. Lots of synthetic antibiotics have been developed within the past several decades, and millions of lives have been saved thanks to them.
The use of antibiotics was so effective that people started to use them everywhere, even in livestock. It was so simple to treat various infections that used to kill people one by one. Not only are antibiotics used for the treatment of infections, but also for prophylaxis. For many years, we could feel in safe because of those powerful medications, but, unfortunately, this situation can change dramatically.
Bacteria causing infections are able to adapt to the changes in the environment, including the effects of antibacterial agents, which results in antibiotic resistance. This means that antibiotic-resistant bacteria cannot be treated with certain antibiotics. Although there are many different antibacterial medications, all of them belong to only several classes.
Every year, 23,000 people die due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria only in the USA, and this number keeps increasing. What do we do without antibiotics? Unlikely, we will turn back to using ancient methods of treatments. Although humanity managed to survive using them, their effectiveness is doubtful. Antibiotics have proven to be a powerful solution to treat bacterial infections, and people should continue developing them.
How Can We Prevent Antibiotic Resistance
Now that we know that antibiotics are not just important but vital, we should understand what can be done in order to preserve their ability to treat infections. We should do the following actions:
• First of all, we should limit their use. It does not mean that we should stop treating infections using antibiotics, but we should stop using them for treating conditions not requiring antibiotics, for instance, viral infections;
• We should limit the use of antibiotics in livestock unless it is needed for saving lives and keeping animals healthy;
• We should prevent the occurrence of bacterial infections. Just by washing your hands properly and regularly, you can prevent the spread of germs;
• If antibiotics are prescribed, you should follow the recommendations of your healthcare provided strictly. This means that you should use the prescribed dosages and take the medications as long as your healthcare provider told you;
• Vaccinations are also very important in preventing the occurrence of infections, so you should think of doing them;
• Keep your immune system strong so that it could defend you against pathogenic bacteria.