Antibiotic Resistance: A Global Threat to Human Health

There is a new, different type of natural disaster emerging to claim more lives than any tornado, tsunami or earthquake you have ever seen. Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is causing death in bacterial infections that were once treatable.

When first introduced in 1928, antibiotics revolutionized society and the field of medicine. But after years of inappropriate prescribing, and the introduction of antibiotics in food production, bacteria are changing their genetic makeup and becoming resistant to available medicines.

“We’ve hit a discovery void. There are no new drugs to fight disease,” according to Maurizio Labbate, a professor of microbiology at the University of Technology, Sydney, “It’s a microbial problem, but it’s also a social policy problem, and I think we need to address both,” Dr. Labbate said.

According to the Center for Disease Control, in the United States alone, “2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections.”

The challenge of combating this issue lies not only in developing new drugs, but in raising awareness to the global public. According to Dr. Labbate, “If you had 20,000 people dying in a cyclone or a tornado, people would be shocked. With this issue, its happening steadily over a period of a year, and it doesn’t illicit quite the same response.”

Resistant bacteria can emerge through mutation, and survive by growing stronger against antibiotics and reproducing or sharing their resistant genes to other bacteria. With death tolls rising due to bacterial infections, some scientists argue that it’s time to find a new solution, instead of waiting to develop new drugs.

Scientists at the i3 institute at UTS are studying the antimicrobial properties of honey, and its effectiveness on surgical and traumatic wounds, burns, and ulcers.

“We need to understand more about how honey works to make it more of an acceptable treatment. We know it works, it’s just a bit of a mystery on how some aspects are working,” said Shona Blair, manager of the i3 institute.

Researchers at the institute have found that the bacteria can not become resistant to honey, due to its complex makeup. According to Mrs. Blair, honey is made up of over 100 components that can vary depending on which flowers the bees visit prior to making the honey.

“The complex nature of the honey means it’s very hard for the bacteria to become resistant to it,” Mrs. Blair said.

Further research into alternative medicines are necessary in order to combat the global crisis of antibiotic resistance.

Written August 2015

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