SAN ANTONIO — Antibiotics are necessary to get rid of many illnesses, or to get rid of them faster, including many that keeping South Texans down right now.
Resistant bacteria are the cause for more than two million infections and 23,000 deaths in the U.S. alone every year. That's why using antibiotics properly is an absolute must.
"Antimicrobial resistance is what we say when we're talking generally about bacteria that develop -- a mechanism to make the antibiotics that are being used not effective," said Dr. Jason Bowling who is an infectious disease specialist with University Health, and a Professor of Infectious Diseases with UT Health San Antonio.
He says anybody who takes antibiotics is at risk for developing resistant bacteria. Dr. Bowling told us, "We have bacteria that live on us and in us. We actually have more bacteria that live on us or in us than cells in the human body. And so most of those don't cause any problems. When you take antibiotics, each exposure they get to antibiotics increases the risk that they can develop resistance mechanisms."
The causes of antibiotic resistance include overuse and misuse of antibiotics, patient non-compliance with antibiotic courses, unnecessary antibiotics in agriculture, and poor hygiene, sanitation and infection control practices.
So when should they be used?
Dr. Bowling said, "Antibiotics should be used only when the benefits outweigh the risks. That's when you know that you have a concern for an acute bacterial infection, and the benefit of treating somebody is more than not treating them."
When should antibiotics not be used? To treat a virus.
Dr. Bowling added, "Sometimes people think that they'll feel better faster. But, antibacterials will not make you feel better. If you have a common cold or other viral infections, which are usually more common, they'll just expose you to the potential side effects and the risk of developing resistant bacteria."
For more about antimicrobial resistance, check out the CDC site here.
If you would like to see more of our Wear The Gown stories, click here.