6 antibiotic-resistant bacteria of public health concern

One of the most important challenges for public health today is the existence of bacteria resistant to the action of antibiotics. This characteristic is that drugs fail to eliminate them. Therefore, they continue to multiply and cause serious damage to health.

Without a remedy for this problem, some infections that are now considered mild can be life threatening within a few years. Therefore, in this article we explain everything you need to know about antibiotic-resistant bacteria and which are the most relevant.

What are antibiotics?

The word 'antibiotic' comes from anti- ('Against') and from the Greek biôtikos ('of the life'). They are a type of medicine used to treat infections caused by bacteria. This is because they are capable of killing them or inhibiting their growth.

The truth is that there are different types of antibiotics depending on their mechanism of action and their composition. In addition, they each have a certain characteristic sensitivity. That is, an antibiotic such as penicillin can be useful against a specific bacteria or several.

Another, such as metronidazole, is used to treat an infection by a different bacteria. They are generally divided into the following classes:

  • Penicillins
  • Cephalosporins.
  • Carbapenems.
  • Aminoglycosides.
  • Tetracyclines.
  • Macrolides.
  • Fluoroquinolones.
  • Sulfamides.

To properly administer an antibiotic it is important to know the characteristics of the infection and the patient. In this way, the most appropriate one can be used depending on the causative bacteria.

However, many times it is necessary to start treatment before knowing the source of the infection. In these cases the so-called broad spectrum antibiotics. They are those that have the ability to kill a large number of different bacteria with the same dose.

Like any other drug, antibiotics can present adverse reactions. The most frequent are diarrhea, vomiting or opportunistic infections. In the same way, the resistance of bacteria could be included within the secondary effects.

Antibiotics are varied and the possibility of buying some over the counter has favored bacterial resistance.

Why are there bacteria resistant to antibiotics?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antibiotic-resistant bacteria pose one of the greatest threats to global health. In addition, it is a serious situation that can affect anyone.

Resistance occurs when a bacterium is able to survive despite the administration of one or more antibiotics. This causes the microorganism to continue causing an infection and treatment options are exhausted.

Antibiotic resistant bacteria are on the rise. The reason is that antibiotics are used routinely and excessively. They are often used improperly, as in the treatment of pathologies in which they are not indicated.

There are different mechanisms by which bacteria can become resistant. One of them is that a resistant one can transmit its genetic material to another. They do it by means of DNA fragments that are called plasmids.

Another simpler mechanism is natural selection. If a bacterium is resistant to an antibiotic, it will be the one that survives its use. Therefore, it will continue to multiply until it forms a population. The problem is that, as different populations of resistant bacteria are created, the treatments are more ineffective.

In the same way, it is important to know that antibiotics are also used preventively. Therefore, they would cease to be useful for this purpose and many interventions, such as any type of surgery, would carry a very high risk to health.

6 resistant bacteria that pose a danger

The World Health Organization itself has drawn up a list listing the resistant bacteria that pose the most danger today. In this listing They are classified according to the priority they should have in the search for new effective antibiotics. In the following sections we mention 6 of the most relevant.

1. Acinetobacter baumannii

This bacteria is one of the most worrying. It is resistant to carbapenemic antibiotics. As explained in a review article published in SEIMC Quality Control, it is usually associated with infections acquired in the hospital environment. For example, sepsis, meningitis, or pneumonia.

This is because it can be found in many devices used in the hospital. Some of them are catheters, mechanical ventilation devices or even peritoneal dialysis fluid.

2. Pseudomonas aeruginosa

It is another of the bacteria resistant to carbapenems classified as high priority. As stated in the MSD Manual, it can cause infections almost anywhere in the body. However, the frequency of also increases in hospitals, as occurs with Acinetobacter spp.

3. Salmonella

Infection by bacteria of the genus Salmonella it is quite frequent. They affect the intestinal system, causing nausea or vomiting, diarrhea and fever. They are part of the group of bacteria resistant to fluoroquinolones.

Four. Neisseria gonnorrhoeae

This microorganism is the cause of gonococcal infection. According to a study published in Infectious Diseases and Clinical Microbiology it is the second most prevalent bacterial sexually transmitted infection. This pathology can be characterized by purulent discharge through the urethra and inflammation of the same or of the cervix.

It can even lead to pelvic inflammatory disease if not treated properly. In particular, there is usually resistance to cephalosporins. This increases both its incidence and the resulting complications.

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5. Streptococcus pneumoniae

Streptococcus pneumoniae is a bacterium that is called, commonly, pneumococcus. It is the main cause of community acquired pneumonia. In addition, it can cause sinusitis, peritonitis, meningitis, and sepsis.

Currently there is a vaccine to prevent infections by this bacteria. They are usually used in people at risk, such as the elderly or immunosuppressed. It is a microorganism that is part of the normal microbiota of people. For example, it is usually present in the pharynx or in the mouth.

6. Shigella spp.

Family bacteria Shigella are the cause of intestinal infections. They cause diarrheal pictures that usually contain blood. Like family Salmonella, are resistant to fluoroquinolones.

Salmonellosis is widely distributed worldwide and has increased its resistance to drugs, causing longer and more aggressive diarrhea.

How to reduce antibiotic resistance?

The emergence of bacteria resistant to antibiotics poses a great risk to humanity. Although the creation of resistors is a natural process, the fact that it is so fast is derived from the use of antibiotics. Therefore, it is important to take certain measures into account.

Actions to be taken by patients

Anyone can help curb the growth of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. To do this, it is key to avoid self-medication. We must be aware that any antibiotic should always be prescribed by a doctor.

These drugs are not effective against viruses or other microorganisms. Therefore, they should not be taken as a treatment for the flu or cold. A common mistake is to assume that, when you have had an infection and a similar picture appears, they are indicated.

That should not be done, just like these drugs should not be shared with anyone. Another basic measure is to prevent infection. To do this, you have to follow the vaccination schedules. In the same way with the possible hygienic measures, such as a good hand washing.

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Medical behaviors

Often times, doctors prescribe antibiotics without knowing the exact cause of the infection. It is a very typical error, for example, in the case of pharyngitis or urinary tract infections.

Therefore, it is essential to try to find the causative microorganism whenever possible. In addition, there are tests, such as the antibiogram, that allow us to know which antibiotic will be most effective for that specific bacterium.

On the other hand, infections should also be prevented in hospitals and health centers. It is essential that medical devices such as catheters or ventilators are used with caution and removed as quickly as possible.

Remember that resistant bacteria are a global problem

The appearance of bacteria resistant to antibiotics is one of the most relevant health problems today. If an early solution to this cannot be found, within a few years any infection could be life threatening.

Therefore, it is essential that we use antibiotics responsibly and consciously. They must always be prescribed by a doctor. Furthermore, healthcare professionals should also restrict their use to situations where they are really necessary.