ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Antibiotic Resistance, A Global Crisis In The Making

Updated on January 24, 2016
tobusiness profile image

Jo has been an ITU nurse at the London North West NHS Trust for 14 years. She obtained her RN at University College London Hospital.

New strain of antibiotic resistanct gonorrhea an urgent threat says CDC

According to the CDC, Gonorrhoeae is the second most commonly reported notifiable infection in the U.S. and is easily transmitted. It causes severe reproductive complications and disproportionately affects sexual, racial and ethnic minorities.
According to the CDC, Gonorrhoeae is the second most commonly reported notifiable infection in the U.S. and is easily transmitted. It causes severe reproductive complications and disproportionately affects sexual, racial and ethnic minorities. | Source

The Crisis is Already Here

Antibiotic resistant organism threatens many of the advances made in medical treatment over the past 70 years. Drug resistant organisms can significantly affect our ability to fight infection and can have a tremendous impact on chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma, arthritis, pneumonia and many others. The rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria is no longer a crisis in the making; it is already here.

" This serious threat is no longer a prediction for the future, it is happening right now in every region of the world and has the potential to affect anyone, of any age in any country."

(WHO, 2014)

According to Dr Keiji Fukuda, World Health Organisation's (WHO) Assistant Director-General for Health Security, " without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill."

Antibiotics have enabled us to live an average of 20 years longer. Disease-causing organisms once decimated the human population before the discovery of antibiotics.

Until the discovery of bacteria in the 17th century, the knowledge of infection was poor, by the 19th century it was clear that bacteria played a part in causing infection and by the first world war, the need to control infection was fast becoming a priority.

Before the discovery of antibiotics, 93% of soldiers who initially survived an abdominal wound would later die from overwhelming infection.

Antibiotic drugs have enabled doctors to extend and save lives as a matter of course on a daily basis; they help to prevent and cure a range of illnesses that are commonly caused by micro-organisms.

Penicillin contributed to saving countless lives during WW 2. We now take for granted cutting edged surgery that scientists in the era before the 20th-century could only dream about. But we have become complacent, and that complacency has given rise to the emergence of what has become known as the superbugs. Antibiotic resistant organisms are gaining ground even as we twiddle our thumbs.

The discovery of antibiotics remains one of the mankind's most significant medical achievements. Childhood diseases are all but eliminated with the use of vaccines and antibiotics. Before antibiotics, 90% of children with bacterial meningitis died. Among the children that survived, many had severe problems such as deafness and mental disabilities.

Strep throat was once a fatal disease, and a simple ear infection could quickly become dangerous as it spreads to the brain. Tuberculosis, whooping cough, pneumonia are all diseases caused by aggressive bacteria that rapidly reproduce to cause infection and death before the advent of antibiotics unless we take action now; we could be seeing a resurgence of many diseases we thought were now history.

As antibiotic resistance organisms continue to rise, unless we find new antibiotic drugs to replace those that are fast proving to be useless, the future will be bleak. If we fail to put lives before profit, we all lose. The next few years may well see us thrown into a world where microbes rule; those tiny microscopic killers can quickly adapt to most of the commonly used antibiotics we currently have in our arsenal.

We need new antibacterial drugs to combat the global crisis that is facing us. Unless the pharmaceutical companies can come up with new drugs, we may find ourselves in a situation where there is no real protection for humanity as the superbugs take hold, and quickly mutate, making current antibiotics useless while we discuss what strategy to adopt against these microscopic fiends.

Alexander Fleming


Penicillin Mould

The Discovery of Penicillin

Alexander Fleming was a Scottish biologist, pharmacologist and botanist. He shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1945 with Ernst Boris Chain and Howard Florey.

Fleming discovered the first antibiotic in 1928, at St Mary's Hospital London. The discovery happened quite by chance, a happy accident? Or maybe a gift from above. The discovery of penicillin led to the introduction of many more complex antibiotics that continues to save lives today by reducing the number of deaths from infection.

Fleming worked in an exceedingly untidy lab environment, and on his return from a vacation, the scientist found a chunk of mould growing on a dirty dish in his lab. However, to his great surprise, there was no bacterial growth around the mouldy blob. Fleming reasoned that there must be something in the mould that was killing off the bacteria. He would later name the substance, penicillin, a drug still in use and led to the group of medicine we now know as antibiotics.

However; like all medication, the newly discovered penicillin, also came with a warning. The man who gave us the drug also saw the potential for its misuse in the future and stated. "The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shop. Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant."

We failed to heed the warning and may now have to pay the ultimate price.

Drug Resistence, Do You Know the Risk?

Before reading this article, were you aware of the risk of antibiotic resistant bacteria

See results

What are Antibiotics?

The term antibiotic means “against life,” the life, in this case, refers to microbes.

There are many different types of antibiotic drugs in use today:

  • Antibacterials

  • Antivirals

  • Antifungals

  • Antiparasitics

Some antibiotics are effective when used against many organism, and are known as broad-spectrum antibiotics, then there are the narrow spectrum antibiotics that affects fewer organisms. The most commonly used antibiotics are the antibacterials.

Most of us have taken antibiotics in one form or another, at one time or another. These medications were once handed out like smarties, they were prescribed for colds and flu that were most often caused by viral infections, antibacterial drugs would be useless against such infections.

Infectious diseases continue to be the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 33% of the 52 million deaths each year, yet, new classes of antibiotics remain scarce.

From 1940 to 1962 an excess of 20 new classes of antibiotic drugs were placed on the market. However, since then, only two new classes of antibiotics have entered the market. The reasons for this lack of progress is three-fold:

  • Scientific the easiest ideas have been used, subsequent drug screens for new antibiotics, appears to go round in circles with the same main compound being re-discover. The low hanging ripe fruits have already been picked.

  • Economical, finding new antibiotics are time consuming and expensive, yielding a poor return on investment when compared to other more lucrative classes of drugs.

  • Regulatory, the process of approval through regulatory bodies such as the U.S. FDA can be a long protracted and confusing process.

In the intervening period, the world has changed, and diseases that were once restricted to certain areas geographically, are now reaching regions that were once thought to be safe. As people travel and move around the globe, diseases such as cholera, tuberculosis and malaria that were once thought to be subdued and conquered are fighting back. We were reminded of how quickly a deadly disease can spread across borders with the recent out-break of the Ebola virus.


Antibiotic misuse and Resistance

One of the major global health care problems facing us in the 21st century is serious antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. Research suggests that bacteria has developed resistance to many different classes of antibiotics discovered to date.

The number of new antibiotics that are licensed for human use are now less than in the past. Governments and the pharmaceutical industry are failing to invest in the resources needed to produce the next generation of antibacterial drugs.

In some cases, pharmaceutical companies have not only failed to invest in new antibiotics, but they have terminated programs into this type of research for economic reasons.

Antibiotics are drugs that are designed to kill the bacteria that causes infection. However, when an individual take antibiotics, although the drug kills the sensitive bacteria, resistant bugs can be left to grow and multiply. When we use antibiotics repeatedly or do not take it as directed, i.e. not completing a course of drugs because the symptoms of the problem have gone away, we are contributing to the production of drug-resistant bacteria. In the European Union, 2 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, 25,000 patients die from the infections each year.

Antibiotics in our food is a major problem. While the use of drugs in the animals we use for food is regulated in almost all countries to help prevent contamination, overuse of antibiotics in animals is a problem that can no longer be ignored. Says a spokesperson for the food safety director for The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

The misuse of antibiotics in the human population remains a real problem, the volume of antibiotic drugs sold for use in the livestock industry is staggering. The meat and poultry industry accounts for 80% of all antibiotics sold in the US.

Antibiotics are used in animal feed to achieve faster growth since scientists in 1950, found that by adding antibiotics to animal feed they were able to increase the rate of growth. The drugs are also given to prevent diseases, especially in intense farming, where animals are kept in cramped, unhygienic condition.

As consumers, we all have a say in what we buy and where we shop. Some of the largest supermarket chains are offering organic meat and poultry from livestock not fed antibiotics.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Congress have been urged by consumer advocacy groups and experts, to place a ban on the use of antibiotics in animal feed. The move was opposed by the large companies with the most to lose economically. A federal court of Appeals recently ruled that the FDA may continue its policy of allowing the widespread antibiotics used in animal feed. The court rejected two petitions challenging the use of antibiotics in the feed of animals that are destined for human consumption. According to advocacy groups, 18 out the 30 antibiotics fed to livestock pose a high risk to human health.


How Drug Resistance is Transferred From Farm Animals to Human


Some of the Antibiotic Resistant Organisms with the Largest Impact on Human Health

Antibiotic Resistant Organisms most urgent and serious threats
Healthcare Cost/year
Estimated Number of Deaths/year
Threat Level
Clostridium Difficile (C difficile), not shown drug resistance but included in CDC's report, can cause fatal healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs)
$1 billion
Linked to 14,000
Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, (CRE) are gram-negative bacteria that are almost immune to a class of antibiotics known as carbapenem. Referred to as 'nightmare bacteria' more dangerous than MRSA. Some CRE bacteria are resistant to all existing antibiotics.
More than 9,000 infections are contracted in hospital (HAI).
More than 50% of patients infected with CRE die due to a lack of effective antibiotics to help fight the infection.
Drug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae
820,000 est. number of cases per year, 30% resistance to any antibiotic.
Floconazole-resistant Candida is a fungus,
$6000 to 29,000 in direct care cost for extra time in hospital. Total add to health care expenditure per year 8 billion.
Approx. 35% mortality
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus (MRSA).
The most serious MRSA infections are associated with health care, 85% while 14% are community acquired. Serious MRSA infections 80,461.
MultiDrug-Resistant Acinetobacter
Multidrug resistant 7,300, Acinetobacter infections/year 12,000
Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus (VRE)
20,000 drug-resistant enteroccoccus infections, 66,000 enterococcus infection/year
Pseudomonas Aeruginosa
6,700 multidrug-resistant pseudomonas infections, 51,000 pseudomonas infections/year
According to the CDC, 2 million people get antibiotic resistant infections each year, as many as 23,000 die due to a lack of effective antibiotics to stop the infection. While antibiotic resistant infection can develop anywhere, research show that i

MRSA, 85% Associated with Health Care



    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Catherine, a pleasure to see you, the visit and comment much appreciated. Yes, we seem to be doing our best to speed thing up don't we? I believe the end will be more of a whimper, less of a bang. The earth will simple eject us for another form of life, just think Dinosaurs.

      :). My best to you, I hope you are having a wonderful day of our last eclipse, we can't see much here in Bedfordshire but you probably can out there on Orlando. Thank you again for the visit, vote and comment.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Voted up+++ such an important topic. sometimes I wonder about the way the world ends. Antibiotics resistance, climate change, or nukes. maybe all three.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Patricia, I really feel for the little one. Although I've worked as a paediatric nurse for many years, I still can't get use to children suffering.

      Drug resistance is a serious problem that effects us all. The race is on to find new generations of antibiotics, if they can't, we're all in trouble. Thank you for stopping by and for the insightful comment, take care and my best always.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 3 years ago from sunny Florida

      This is a topic that is often not taken seriously. You have covered this so well and it is an article everyone should read.

      Humans and pets alike are at risk.

      My grandson was ill from birth and because they could not figure out what was wrong, he was given drug after drug after drug till he built up an immunity to most. WE, his MOmma and I said, No more...and went in search of answers at Shands hospital in Florida. And it was a good thing. He is very limited in the antibiotics he can now take. (He is still ill but that is unrelated to those treatments.)

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Good morning Flourish, sorry about your little furry friend, this just goes to show what a massive problem we're facing. It makes me angry when I see concerned individuals doing what they can, while Governments do nothing to stop the tons of antibiotics that are fed to livestock. If we don't become antibiotic-resistant through eating the meat, we will from eating food crops because the stuff goes right back into the soil. I had a patient recently who was impossible to treat. he had Carbapenem-resistant-Enterobacteriaceae or CRE. These highly resistant germs can close down hospitals wards at a time when every bed is needed. If only we'd listened to the wise old sage. Yes, Fleming knew his discovery and the nature of mankind. Flourish, it's alway great to see you, take care and my best always.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      What a terrific and relevant hub, Jo, and so expertly done as always. It's interesting and sad that not only are we humans struggling with these drug-resistant strains but also our pets. One of my cats has been struggling with a persistent ear infection in both of his ears for almost a year. Having seen a specialist veterinarian, we now know he has a feline version of MRSA. The vet believes that's what may have contributed to his deafness. It's been so touch-and-go that we thought he may not make it. Fleming's warning is affecting two-footers and four-footers alike.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Genna, lovely to see you! Effective antibiotics are getting fewer and fewer as bacteria becomes more resistant, if governments and drug companies can't or won't do something fast, we'll be heading for a really rough ride ahead. I was shocked to see how much antibiotics goes into the food we eat. And not only our food, it's in the water and the soil. It's not surprising that the bugs are thriving. We need new effective antibiotics, if and when we do get it, we'll have to do a much better job of keeping it effective and that's going to be up to everyone. Thank you for taking the time, much appreciated, my best to you.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      A very timely article and beautifully researched. Doctors have prescribing antibiotics too frequently...although some of them have pulled back on this. Too often people don't realize that they can do nothing to cure a virus, and that they do not differentiate between good and bad bacteria.

      I read, recently, that Perdue overfed their chickens with human antibiotics for years. I’ve never been able to eat this poultry…there is a taste and smell to it I have always found offensive. I now wonder if this is the reason. Excellent article.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Hendrika, it can be a tough call make, especially where children are concerned. But we don't have to stop using antibiotics, we need to use it prudently and responsible. I think it's crazy that antibiotics is still used in animal feed not simply to cure diseases, but purely to increase profit margin. As a nurse, I know the value of antibiotics, it scares me to think that one day these drugs could well be rendered useless. Thank you for stopping by and for the very insightful comment. I'm glad that your granddaughter is better, let's hope all the children in the future will be as fortunate. Take care, my best to you and your family.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Frank, I can't argue with those sentiments, but there's living and there's living. It won't be much fun living in a bubble. If we don't do something now, that is where we're heading.

      We are all stakeholders in this little planet, what we do now impacts on the kind of world we leave behind for the next generation. There are some things we can't do much about, but now and again we're given a window of opportunity in which we can still make a difference, we need to grasp the nettle no matter how painful. Large industries and governments have their own priorities, people need to know what's at stake. Always lovely to see you, my best.

    • Hendrika profile image

      Hendrika 3 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      Thank you for doing all this research. I am aware of how serious the problem is. My son and his family have decided to use antibiotics only if really necessary, but the problem is the food. Most of us cannot afford to buy organic and have no choice but to eat what we can afford.

      It takes quite a lot of courage to keep antibiotics away from the kids when they are ill and you know antibiotics will clear it up in no time. It bears fruit, though, as recently when my granddaughter became VERY ill the antibiotics worked very fast. one day we feared for her life and the next she was almost cured!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

      a very informative article.. but ive decided to live until I die.. I stopped worrying about what's going to kill me because it seems everything has a death-side... but dont take nothing away from your well organized article tobusiness

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      MsDora, isn't it ironic? Unfortunately, we never really know what goes into the food we eat. It's probably time to return to our friendly neighbourhood butcher and local farms. Thank you for stopping by, it's always lovely to see you.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      To think that individuals may try to be careful about their immune system, only to have problems transferred by animals. As usual, we learn some much from your research. Thanks for the information and the warning.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Devika, lovely to see you! Glad you found the article fascinating and interesting, it is something that affects us all, it have the potential to completely change the future. I hope you're enjoying your Sunday, my best to you as always.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Lady Guinevere, you are spot on about soil contamination and the vicious cycle. We don't really know how big the this problem really is because there is insufficient data, this is mainly due to the fact that companies are not required to release this information. Thank you for the insightful comment and visit. I hope you're having a lovely Sunday, my best to you.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Bridget F, thank you for taking the time to read this, much appreciated. I think we should all be aware of the problem and do what we can, but getting to the heart of the matter will be an uphill struggle. Feeding livestock with tons of antibiotics is insane. Take care and my best to you.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Ruby, I know exactly where you're coming from. I would love to cut out the meat, but it's not easy. Organic is an alternative but are more expensive and as you've said, we can only take these things on trust. A few years ago in the UK, we found out that some of the large supermarkets were selling horse meat as beef. We are just hoping that we get what we're paying for. You're right about the chemical in the soil, but that's another story. Thanks for reading this, it's always a pleasure to see you. Take care and have a wonderful Sunday.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      manatita44, lovely to see you. yes, antibiotic resistance is an huge problem that affects us all, it is frightening when we stop to think about it, but we all need to know the facts to do our bit. Thank you for stopping by, enjoy your Sunday and my best to you.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      tobusiness so interesting and a well-researched hub on this fascinating topic. Voted up, interesting and useful.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 3 years ago from West By God

      always exploring Where do you think the animals get this...the ground and the plants. It is all one big cycle.

      To the author and others. This is a well planned and researched hub indeed. What people do not realize is that we started giving anti-bioltics at the first sign of an infection. That breaks down our immune system to fight off any other infection. Now about the animals, we they get the bugs from the ground, which we use fertilizers on...that fertilizer comes from animals and plants and we just put it back in the ground and we are in that cycle. It doesn't matter if you don't eat meat at all, you will still get it from the plants....and the cycle continues.

    • Bridget F profile image

      Bridget F 3 years ago from USA

      This is very scary! I hope that somehow a solution will be found before things get really bad! Very well written and interesting!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This is so scary. I wish i could stop eating meat of any kind, I tried and fell off the wagon. I do buy organic, hoping they can be trusted. Farmers are using chemicals in their fields which are just as bad. ( So i've read. ) The thought of antibiotics becoming inactive is very worrisome indeed. Thank you for a most educational article. I see you've put a lot of work into making us aware. Thank you so much..

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 3 years ago from london

      Well written and very informative Hub and well worth reading. Necessary education. Hope things get better soon. A bit scary.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Faith, It's a scary situation we're in at the moment, if we can't find new antibiotics soon, we'll be facing a pretty dark future.

      As always my friend, thank you for for the wonderful support. I hope you and the little angels are all well. Have a lovely weekend and my best to you and the family.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Very informative, yet alarming hub, dear Jo! I learn so much reading your insightful hubs. I knew that doctors had been overprescribing antibiotics and it was soon going to be a huge problem, but we never seem to heed the warning do we and/or we abuse them? I figured it would come to this one day, sadly.

      Voted up +++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

      Blessings always