What is antibiotic resistance?
Antibiotics work by killing bacteria, slowing their growth and stopping their ability to cause infection. They’re the frontline treatment for reducing the risk of infection during organ transplantation, chemotherapy treatment, caesarean sections and other surgical procedures. In less serious circumstances, they’re a vital back-up for our own immune systems, but the more we use them, the more bacteria change and become resistant to their effects. Bacteria no longer die − instead they survive and multiply. Scientists say a growing number of infections, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and gonorrhoea, are becoming harder to treat as they change and fight back against the protective power of antibiotics.
Health experts agree that the overuse and incorrect use of antibiotics is the key reason behind the antibiotic-resistance crisis we’re now facing.
“Antibiotics aren’t Tic Tacs, but that’s how we have been treating them. We’ve been popping them, and now we’re in this mess,” says Dr Tony Velkov of the University of Melbourne’s Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics.
“If you keep using something, bugs eventually get resistant. Penicillin is now pretty much useless. There are some good derivatives, but we need to keep making new antibiotics because the bugs keep becoming resistant.”