Whether we ourselves create or encourage antibiotic resistance is a very pertinent question. And to get an answer to this vital query, we need to visit some of the people living in the most remote regions of this planet and find out if they also carry bacteria that possess antibiotic-resilient genes.
Scientists have already conducted studies on the Bushmen tribes inhabiting the southern regions of Africa. These indigenous people are said to have little or virtually no contact with the Western world and, hence, is assumed that they would have never used antibiotics. The bacteria collected from the stool samples of these people reveal extremely low, but noticeable, numbers of bacteria. Studies undertaken on other indigenous people inhabiting other remote places on the earth have also yielded similar results.
Studies undertaken on Kalahari Bushmen have shown that around one in 50 bacteria transmit a resistance gene. On the other hand, among the people in European nations, 25 of every 50 bacteria carry a resistance gene.
Hence, this is ample proof of the fact that we have not created bacterial resistance. What we have actually done is promoted the development of such resilient and multi-resistant bacteria. In effect, we have unsuspectingly let these bacteria to thrive and grow.
Whether one agrees or not, bacterial resistance to antibiotics affects each and every one of us. Nevertheless, the consequences of its subsistence are not totally awful.
Like in every situation in our life, we may prefer to see things in a negative or positive perspective. The negative manner of seeing resistance is manifest in the media. The media projects the resistance problem as an epidemic that has the potential to obliterate the entire humanity in a very brief period of time. Although this view may not be completely wrong, if we have created a problem, it is also true that we can resolve it too.
On the contrary, when you view the problem from a more optimistic manner, you will find it to be a blessing in disguise. Since the problem makes us stop and think, it may be considered as a blessing. In fact, the problem makes us more accountable for our actions, for instance, not using an antibiotic drug as an instant remedy for a cold or cough. In addition, the problem has compelled us to alert and educate ourselves not only regarding antibiotics, but also regarding the adverse effects of all the drugs we use. Precisely speaking, the problem of bacterial resistance is also telling us to make preferences regarding our lifestyle. In more restrained ways, the problem of bacterial resistance is actually posing challenges regarding our perceptions of ourselves as well as our world, as we are finding it more and more difficult to view ourselves as advanced than the single-celled bacteria or as something different or separate from them. The problem has been testing our idea of control not only of nature, but also of several other things in our lives.
There is no doubt that the increasingly bacterial resistance to antibiotics is a key health problem for the public. In effect, this problem is affecting our capability to combat even the most common contagions, such as ear infections, tonsillitis and infections of the urinary tract. An organization called the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics has already been founded in the United States since bacterial resistance is such an enormous problem as well as global in its aspect and, at the same time, not very well comprehended by the public. The primary task of this organization is to deal with the issue. This organization aims to persuade people to adopt a more dependable approach regarding the use of antibiotics as well as to support the enhanced use of antibiotics by means of communication of research information from various countries across the globe. In addition, the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics also looks for educating people from all walks in life, including patients, physicians, veterinary surgeons, pharmacists, pharmaceutical firms, farmers as well as the common man. Such type of global teamwork engaging all people who are interested in using antibiotics is extremely essential.
Plasmids as well as transposons enable bacteria containing them to survive even in the presence of an antibiotic - hence, in this case also the strategy concerning the survival of the fittest is applicable. However, when a bacterial cell encloses more than one plasmids and/ or transposons, it becomes a disadvantage for the survival of the bacteria in two different manners. First and foremost, carrying or passing on this additional genetic material uses up plenty of energy stored in the bacterial cell, leaving very little energy for their growth or multiplication. Second, when there are several plasmids and/ or transposons in the bacterial cell, they become less potent or dangerous.
Therefore, it is clear that carrying resistance genes, such as plasmids and transposons, has it advantages as well as disadvantages for the bacterial cell. In case this pressure is taken away by not using any antibiotic at all for a period of time, the bacteria begin to lose their resistance genes - plasmids/ transposons and revert to their usual state.
Doctors in a hospital in Southern Africa faced a problem with bacterial resistance to a specific antibiotic known as gentamicin. For a while, the doctors had to stop prescribing the antibiotic gentamicin and substituted it using a lesser known antibiotic. After a lapse of five years, the specific bacteria whose antibiotic resistance had created a problem for the doctors in treating Klebsiella pneumonia that may result in lung infections lost its resistance genes and the bacterium became susceptible to gentamicin once again. This way, the antibiotic gentamicin became effective again.
This particular incident implies that a more sensible and cautious approach to using antibiotics would certainly lead to changes in bacteria. In turn, such changes would result in diminished bacterial resistance as well as their return to the natural or original state, wherein they are susceptible to antibiotics. In effect, this is a wonderful instance of the balances that work within nature.