Antimicrobial resistant diseases are expanding rapidly across the globe

Madeline Vessey, Editorials Editor

Photos by CDC
Map of Candida Auris cases across the United States.

Drug resistant diseases are becoming a serious problem in this day and age with almost one million becoming infected and 23,000 U.S. citizens dying as a result of antibiotic resistant diseases. With the arrival of effective antibiotics, doctors feel compelled to provide patients with the best possible care; however, antibiotics are not always the best option.

The development of antibiotics in the 1940s was a great advance in medicine and it has saved a countless number of lives since then. However in recent years, patients and doctors seem to lean on them frequently, often when they should not be.

The overuse of these drugs is done for many reasons, one being uncertainty. Viral, bacterial and fungal diseases have incredibly similar symptoms, making it difficult for doctors to correctly diagnose patients. Due to uncertainty and time constraints, doctors often prescribe antibiotics out of caution.

Additionally, parents and patients often expect or ask for antibiotics more than over-the-counter medication. This pressure often encourages physicians to prescribe antibiotics more often than over-the-counter medication.

This overuse of antibiotics has led to what the CDC calls, “one of the world’s most pressing public health problems,” due to a new occurrence of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Bacteria which had once reacted readily to antibiotics, are now requiring higher doses over a longer time-frame to eradicate bacterial infections or sometimes cannot be treated at all.

The creation of antibiotics was a huge advance in medicine, but if it continues to be misused, then it will lose all its effectiveness. If antibiotics lose their effectiveness, then procedures, such as surgeries, that rely on antibiotics to keep patients from acquiring infections, will now become significantly more dangerous and deadly. In time, doctors and scientists will lose the ability to treat common infections that we can easily treat now. The same came been seen in the use of antifungals, for example, the fungus Candida Auris.

Candida Auris is a fungus that attacks individuals with weakened immune systems, including newborns, the elderly, diabetics, smokers and individuals with autoimmune disorders on medication.  In those with compromised immune systems, it has been significantly lethal, with about 50% of those infected dying within 90 days of contracting the fungus.

However, the most alarming fact about this fungus is not its lethality, but its ability to stay alive on surfaces long after the carrier or patient is gone. After a patient’s death, his/her hospital room was tested and the fungus was found on every surface, even after experiencing a hydrogen peroxide bath. It is not only resistant to antifungals, but it also is incredibly contagious and sticks to surfaces easily. Alarmingly, it has been spreading worldwide, it has been found in up to 32 countries across the world and twelve states within the United States.

The issue of these drug resistant diseases will continue to occur and increase in magnitude if measures are not taken to reduce the overuse of antimicrobial drugs. If this is not done, then more of these quickly spreading and currently invincible diseases will develop and with the development of drug resistant microbes, medical procedures that had once had large success rates will be in more dangerous without the brace of effective antibiotics to aid in recovery.

If antibiotics and antifungals continue to be misused then more and more of these “superbugs” will spring up across the world and threaten populations, so action needs to be taken now to avoid any further casualties as a result of illnesses that were once treatable.