Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Impact on Human Health

antibiotic resistant bacteria 2Antibiotic resistant bacteria have developed into a more serious health risk in recent years. Infections are quite common with some types of bacteria becoming resistant to commonly used antibiotics. This results in stronger forms being used and a possible resistance to them as well.  Stronger medications can be less effective, more toxic to humans and more expensive to administer. Antibiotic resistant bacteria can come from more than contact with someone who is sick. They can also come from the food that you eat.

Bacteria susceptible to antibiotics are killed or prevented from growing. Those that are not are antibiotic resistant bacteria.  These bacteria will continue to multiply and can cause severe illness and infections. The more frequently they are exposed to the same antibiotic, the more likely they will develop a resistance.  Over use of antibiotics when they are really not necessary can lead to this problem. It has been found in studies that nearly 50% of antibiotics prescribed in hospitals are unnecessary. Doctors are becoming more selective in prescribing medications for people who are sick. Reducing their use will help to prevent antibiotic resistant bacteria from developing.

Coming into contact with people who are sick or objects they have been in contact with is not the only method of exposure to bacteria that makes you sick. Food animals are carriers as well and can pass strains of bacteria along to humans. All animals including humans have bacteria in their intestines which can be killed by antibiotics but some survive to multiply. When these animals are slaughtered, the meat and other products can be contaminated with antibiotic resistant bacteria. When humans handle the products in food preparation or eating it, they are then infected. The feces of these animals are used as fertilizer for food crops so fruits and vegetables can be contaminated as well as the water supply from runoff from these fields.

Antibiotic resistant bacteria are created in food animals by the use of antibiotics for three reasons:

–       Treat a sick animal

–       Prevent an animal from getting sick

–       Promote faster growth and feed efficiency

antibiotic resistant bacteriaAnimals treated with antibiotics for growth and feed efficiency reasons are given low doses of these drugs for a long period of time. Low-level, long term exposure can lead to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Antibiotics used in higher concentrations over a shorter timeframe are less risky. What is the end result? Antibiotic resistant bacteria are able to pass on their resistance to offspring and some traits to other types of bacteria. Recent Salmonella outbreaks in 2011-2012 and 2013 had their origins traced back to ground beef and poultry so the threat is very real.

Antibiotics are necessary and will not be removed from the process but their overuse can be controlled. They are still necessary to reduce animal suffering and disease. Unfortunately, the amount of antibiotics used in feed animals is not tracked in the US so no data exists.

Decreasing your risk of exposure to antibiotic resistant bacteria can be done by handling food properly.

–       Cook meat and animal products thoroughly (beef, chicken, eggs)

–       Use a separate cutting board for meats and wash your hands when preparing foods

–        Don’t drink raw milk (milk sold in stores is pasteurized, it is not “raw”)

–       Wash your hands when in contact with manure, animals, or their environment

Antibiotic resistant bacteria are a growing concern but can be controlled by decreasing the use of antibiotics as well as handling and cooking foods properly.

Sandra Mills is a freelance healthcare writer and helped contribute to the infographic. You can find the original source at Carrington College.

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About the Author

Jacques DelormeJacques Delorme has coached for more than 25 years at all age levels and is a certified coach in five sports with a strong background in nutrition including certification as a Youth Athlete Nutrition Specialist. He is the founder and operator of this site.

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