Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance creates serious global health issues, potentially causing a post-antibiotic era. This impacts human and animal health, causing longer, more aggressive illnesses, and detrimental effects on the environment. 

Cellular membrane floating on dark background surrounded by antibiotic pills and capsules representing antibiotic resistance.

What is Antibiotic Resistance?

Antibiotic resistance (ABR) occurs when bacteria, or microbials, that used to be mitigated by antibiotics are now able to withstand the effects of antibiotics. Microbes of the bacteria are not only able to live when treated with antibiotics, but can multiply, causing more stress to the host. When antibiotics are used to treat infections, the host can build up a tolerance if undertreated or mistreated. 

Antibiotic resistance poses a serious global health threat as it can lead to the failure of antibiotic treatment, prolonged illnesses, increased healthcare costs, and higher mortality rates. It limits the options for effective treatment of infections and makes it more challenging to control the spread of diseases. Addressing ABR requires a comprehensive approach, including appropriate antibiotic use, improved infection prevention and control measures, the development of new antibiotics, and global collaboration to tackle this issue.

The Connection Between Antibiotics and Antimicrobial Resistance

Since their invention, germs have been evolving to build a tolerance against the antimicrobial drugs. When the same antimicrobial is overused in humans or animals, the parasite, disease, or virus isn’t as strongly affected or killed off due to this built up tolerance. Over time, this results in antimicrobial resistance as germs are not effectively killed when combated with antimicrobials. 

Black background with purple netting with antibiotic pills in shades of purple, blue, and green spilling out from top.

What Causes Antibiotic Resistance?

Antibiotic misuse and overuse are significant contributing factors to the development of antibiotic resistance. When antibiotics are used inappropriately, such as not completing the full course of treatment or using them for viral infections, it provides an opportunity for bacteria to survive and develop resistance. Antibiotic resistance happens in both humans and animals due to the following factors:

  • Overprescription and Inappropriate Use 
    Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed when they are not necessary, such as for viral infections like the common cold or flu, which are not affected by antibiotics. Additionally, incorrect dosage or duration of treatment can contribute to ABR. Addressing this problem requires a multifaceted approach, including responsible antibiotic use, improved infection control measures, the development of new antibiotics, and increased awareness and education about the appropriate use of antibiotics.

  • Agricultural Use
    Antibiotics are frequently used in agricultural practices to promote growth and prevent diseases in livestock. The widespread use of antibiotics in this manner can lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can spread to humans through food consumption or direct contact.

  • Poor Infection Control
    Inadequate hygiene practices in healthcare settings, such as improper handwashing or inadequate sterilization of medical equipment, can facilitate the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

  • Lack of New Antibiotics
    There has been a decline in the development of new antibiotics in recent decades, leading to a limited arsenal of effective drugs to combat resistant bacterial strains. This makes it more difficult to treat infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

  • Bacterial Adaptation
    Bacteria are capable of evolving and adapting to survive the effects of antibiotics. When exposed to antibiotics, some bacteria may acquire genetic mutations or share resistance genes with other bacteria through horizontal gene transfer, enabling them to survive and multiply.

  • Global Travel and Trade
    The movement of people, animals, and goods across borders facilitates the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria globally. Resistant strains can be carried by individuals or transferred through contaminated food, water, or environmental sources.

These are just some of the contributing factors to ABR. As new diseases form, economies shift, and the environment changes, there are additional issues that will take a global effort to mitigate. 

The Mechanisms of Antibiotic Resistance

ABR cartoon, with an organism surrounded by antibiotics, genetic materials being changed by antibiotics, and antibiotics transferring through genes.

Intrinsic Resistance
The natural ability for an organism to withstand ABR based on their cellular components

ABR cartoon, with an organism surrounded by antibiotics, genetic materials being changed by antibiotics, and antibiotics transferring through genes.

Acquired Resistance
The development of resistance to antibiotics over time due to changes or mutations of a bacteria

ABR cartoon, with an organism surrounded by antibiotics, genetic materials being changed by antibiotics, and antibiotics transferring through genes.

Genetic Change
Refers to bacteria acquiring of new genetic material due to mutation or gene transfer between different bacteria through molecules and DNA

ABR cartoon, with an organism surrounded by antibiotics, genetic materials being changed by antibiotics, and antibiotics transferring through genes.

DNA Transfer
Transformation (naked DNA incorporation)
Transduction (the process of phagocytosis)
Conjugation (direct contact)

A lion, bald eagle, deer, insect, rodent, and snake looking back at three scientists in front of planet earth, representing One Health.

Antibiotic Resistance and the Future of One Health

With the ability of bacteria to mutate and resist antibiotics, there are even bigger issues at hand. One Health, the concept of the interconnectedness of all humans, animals, and the environment, is greatly impacted by antibiotic resistance. 

Each pillar of One Health is affected by antibiotic resistance:

  • Human Health
    Antibiotic resistant infections are harder to treat, which means patients stay sick, even with diseases once treated by chemotherapy, surgery, or organ transplants. This can cause more deaths and reduced life expectancy rates which will impact the overall economy as well.

  • Animal Health
    Antibiotics are commonly used in veterinary medicine to treat and prevent infections in animals. The emergence of antibiotic resistance in animals not only affects their health and welfare but also has implications for human health. Resistant bacteria can spread from animals to humans through direct contact, consumption of contaminated food, or environmental contamination.

  • Environmental Impact
    Antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant bacteria can enter the environment through the discharge of wastewater from healthcare facilities, agriculture, and pharmaceutical manufacturing. These substances can contribute to the selection and spread of antibiotic resistance in environmental microbial communities, potentially impacting both human and animal health.

With the contamination of our waterways, agriculture, and the overall negative impact on our environment, antibiotic resistance affects us all at an ecological level, which in turn affects us on an environmental level, which inherently impacts our economies. 

One Health efforts must be implemented on a global scale, which poses its own wicked problems. Aligning One Health efforts worldwide is very difficult due to differing economies, cultural ideals, and opposing governmental agendas. However, if antibiotic resistance isn’t mitigated, then we will enter a post-antibiotic era, which will be catastrophic to the environment which will, in turn, cause economic ruin.

Connection of AMR and ABR

ABR is directly related to the effects of AMR, antimicrobial resistance. Microbials, or the components of bacteria, build up a resistance to antimicrobials, which make up antibiotics, causing antimicrobial resistance. Once microbials create a resistance against antibiotics, this causes antibiotic resistance.

Female scientist holds a Biomeme diagnostic test and platform on a black background with colorful net pattern behind her.

How Biomeme is Addressing the Threat of Antibiotic Resistance

Biomeme combats antibiotic resistance in many ways, from Host Response research, testing, and technologies, to our One Health efforts and education of the impact of ABR. 

Biomeme advocates for the responsible use of antimicrobials and antibiotics as the first fundamental step that healthcare providers must take when prescribing medications to patients. Of course, this is easier said than done, especially for smaller economies with fewer resources. With our microcellular tests and technologies, we offer rapid results and insights into an infection, determining how to treat it faster, which helps reduce the inappropriate use of antibiotics.

Additionally, the mobility of our diagnostics gives communities the resources they need, even in impoverished or rural areas. This allows practitioners to treat illnesses on a more global scale, which supports One Health efforts and overall global health. 

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