By CHRIS ONSTOTT
Antibiotics, long considered the silver bullet in the fight against bacterial infections, appear to be slowly losing their luster. According to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, misuse of antibiotics is leading to strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
The study found doctors often prescribe antibiotics to people suffering from upper respiratory infections that only occasionally respond to antibiotic treatment. Such misuse of antibiotics is promoting antibiotic resistance, researchers said.
However, medical personnel at BYU remind students to take the studies with a grain of salt.
“Increasing resistance to antibiotics is a problem to a modest extent,” said Dr. Landon Beales, a specialist in internal medicine at BYU’s McDonald Health Center.
In the 37 years that he has practiced medicine, Beales said he has noticed increasing resistance to antibiotics especially in infections acquired in hospital settings after patients have been traumatized, but reminds people not to panic.
“I don’t think that it’s appropriate to condemn the use of antibiotics because they have made a great deal of difference in old illnesses that used to be devastating,” Beales said, “It’s a two-edged sword. With antibiotics, people don’t have such serious problems with pneumonia or rheumatic fever like they used to, but, on the other side of the coin, their use can lead to resistant strains of bacteria.”
Beales said resistant bacteria strains are nothing new.
“Almost immediately after penicillin was discovered, bacteria began mutating to become more resistant to it. As bacteria continue to mutate, scientists keep up by producing new antibiotics that will help,” Beales said.
Following the doctor’s directions may be the best thing that patients can do to prevent bacterial resistant strains from developing. Patients often come to pressure doctors to give them some pill to make them better even after doctors have explained that the best advice would be to let the body’s own immune system run its course, Beales said.
“A mild viral upper respiratory infection is not a valid reason for using antibiotics, but when it becomes complicated with bacterial second infections that involve sinuses, ears, lungs, kidneys, etc., then antibiotics are appropriate,” Beales said.
Jerry Graff, pharmacy manager at the McDonald Health Center, also reminds students to follow the doctor’s directions when taking antibiotics.
“Instead of taking the full amount of antibiotics for the time the doctor has instructed, students often stop taking antibiotics after two or three days when they start feeling better. Often the infection will return because the bacteria weren’t killed and begin multiplying, creating a more resistant strain of bacteria to the affects of that antibiotic,” Graff said.
This is a major reason behind bacteria resistant strains, he said.