The overuse and misuse of antibiotics has led to antibiotic-resistant germs — here’s what you can do to help.
Since 1928, when Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, antibiotics have saved millions of lives. These powerful drugs target and kill bacteria, which is why antibiotics can be used to treat infections caused by bacteria.
However, antibiotics have been used for so long — and for so many unnecessary conditions (including infections caused by viruses) — that bacteria are becoming antibiotic-resistant. As a result, the most effective, safest drugs are now less effective, causing patients to need antibiotics that kill a wider range of bacteria, potentially have more side effects, may not work as well, and cost more. In some cases – that thankfully are rare, so far – there may be no effective antibiotics to treat someone’s infection. We must all therefore do our part to use antibiotics appropriately so we can make sure antibiotics can be used to treat bacterial infections when antibiotics are needed.
Studies have found that 50 percent of outpatients who are taking antibiotics for respiratory infections don’t need them. That’s because viruses — not bacteria — cause many respiratory infections like the cold or flu. Antibiotic medicines won’t help you feel better if you have a virus.