Many people today use medication unnecessarily. The smallest flu or cold warrants the use of antibacterial medication that often does greater harm to our bodies. We ask our doctors for medications that cure common illnesses without thinking of the effects that these medicines may have on our bodies in the future. A rising concern in the medical field is the emergence of antimicrobial-resistant microorganisms (ARMs). Although resistance to antimicrobial organisms is a natural occurrence, over the years the cases of ARMs have been rapidly growing. The over-consumption and misuse of medication has created antimicrobial resistance on every continent.
An increasing worry is that soon common diseases, such as pneumonia and tuberculosis, will become fatal to those that acquire them. With an increased exposure to antimicrobial medicines, these diseases may continue to develop a stronger resistance to medications used now, creating a possibility that they may not work in the future. Resistant strains of bacteria are caused by inappropriate prescription of antibiotics when the patient truly doesn’t need them, or a misuse by the patient, for example stopping the use of the medication before the infection is fully treated. ARMs can cause post operation infections, result in limb loss, or complications in the central nervous system. A report recently published by the OECD estimates that globally, at least 70,000 people die a year due to these resistant bugs.
Not only are ARMs a health risk, they have now become a financial burden. It takes hospitals more time, resources, and money to treat infected patients. The OECD report estimates that an additional 10,000 to 40,000 USD are spent treating patients infected by an ARM. In addition, global markets are also affected by these resistant microorganisms. In 2015 chicken sales in Norway dropped by 20% after news got out that a resistant strain of E. coli was found in the meat.
The misuse of antibiotics has become a great issue in the veterinary and agricultural sectors. In the U.S. about 80% of microbial consumption is taken by livestock. Aside from the enhancement of resistant organisms by our direct intake of medication, the foods that we are consuming are also filled with enhanced microorganisms. Livestock are given antimicrobial agents to prevent or treat infectious diseases. They are also given these agents without necessity to produce an increase in growth rates and feed efficiency. Global trade and travel are also accelerating the spread of these “super bugs”. For an effect to take place, countries globally must take actions to combat the antimicrobial resistance. A coordination effort of preventative measures must be put in place for countries worldwide to curtail the rapid spread of such resistant bacteria.
The risk of growing ARMs should be considered when treating the elderly with unnecessary medication. One of the techniques put in place for the prevention of microbial resistance to diseases is to avoid the misuse and over usage of medication. For elderly in nursing homes or assisted living facilities this requires great attention to the needs of the patient. If medicine is given when there are other alternatives or it is not absolutely needed, this could result in greater complications for the patient in the future. At old age a complication with a common illness could be fatal.
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