Around 70 years ago when antibiotics were first introduced as the cure to bacterial infections, they were extremely effective in clearing infections and reducing illness. The first of these antibiotics was penicillin, discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming, a professor at Saint Mary’s Hospital in London. The discovery of antibiotics changed the course of medicine. Infections that were previously severe and oftentimes fatal could easily be treated with antibiotics. Like every novel discovery, however, antibiotics exhibited their peak performance for only a short period of time. A new phenomenon was beginning to emerge: antibiotic resistance.
The extreme exigency of this issue has led public health professional from every occupation - doctors, pharmacists, researchers, scientists, and healthcare management professionals - to design projects that seek to reduce the effects of antibiotic resistance. While the resistance problem cannot be completely eradicated considering that the process is one of evolutionary natural selection and survival of the fittest, researchers argue that “rational approaches can be taken to reduce further development of resistance patterns."
According to Dr. John Bartlett, professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, antibiotic stewardship is one of the main solutions to the resistance issue and can be achieved by using “short courses of antibiotics and avoiding unnecessary antibiotic use." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) take this idea one step further and call for prescribing improvement actions, such as “requiring reassessment within 48 hours to check drug choice, dose, and duration."
While a significant number of researchers advocate for decreased use of antibiotics, other arguments shift focus to a different approach. David Livermore of the Health Protection Agency of London is one of many scientists that believes “rather than being overly optimistic about the benefits of reducing antimicrobial prescriptions, we must also emphasize the use of those antibiotics that prove less prone to select resistance." He argues that “the evidence for any contingent reduction in resistance [from reducing antimicrobial prescribing] is scanty and several pathogens are becoming markedly more resistant.”
Despite the call for innovation in antibiotic development, a more critical argument holds that “the best way to overcome resistance is not to wait for the emergence of new drugs” but encompasses a very different approach. A final solution calls for targeting the resistance problem using public policy and government intervention. The FDA, for example, supports regulations addressing proper use of antibiotics. A part of the CDC’s $160 million dollar appropriated budget for this initiative is “creating global partnerships for prevention and detection of infectious diseases” which also involves government regulations. Government intervention, then, would play a critical role in furthering initiatives to reduce antimicrobial resistance.
As aptly mentioned by Dr. Philippa Binns, a clinical adviser for MedicineWise, “antibiotic resistance is not limited to an individual." Taking a few examples of successful reduction in resistance does not implicate reduction in antibiotic resistance as a whole because this is an interconnected global phenomenon and has spread everywhere. Solving this issue must involve a solution that encompasses all societies and is accessible to all people. Only then can an observed reduction be considered a significant one.