Since Penicillin was discovered in 1928, the use of antibiotics for the treatment of diseases has increased exponentially. Antibiotics are being overused in many ways in our world today.
Commonly prescribed antibiotics are becoming less effective due to a number of reasons:
These can lead to the effectiveness of antibiotics being reduced, and the incidence of antibiotic resistance increasing. These bacteria are commonly known as superbugs.
People feel unwell and when going to the doctors, they expect antibiotics to be prescribed. If patients have viral infections, such as the common cold and not a bacterial one, the antibiotics are ineffective and unnecessary.
Patients should always fully complete the prescribed course of antibiotics, every time they are taken. This ensures all bacteria are killed, and so none survive which can subsequently mutate and produce resistant strains. Patients begin to feel well after a few days of taking the medicine, and stop taking them. This is potentially very harmful, as random mutations can occur which can lead to antibiotic resistance. The resistant bacteria reproduce quickly, and the resistance spreads.
Previously, antibiotics were regularly used in farming, and these can be used to prevent disease, keep the animals well and allow them to grow quickly. The high use of antibiotics in agriculture may have a cost as it could lead to spread of antibiotic resistance from animals into human hosts. Legal controls are now in place to try and reduce the use of antibiotics in this way.
The development of new antibiotics stopped years ago, as they were hailed as the solution to a very difficult disease control problem. Some limited success with new antibiotic search has occurred recently. People are concerned that in the near future, some bacteria will be resistant to all known antibiotics.