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There is no doubt that antibiotics have had a positive impact on many lives and it is no surprise that the demand for antibiotics continues to rise. However, we are not aware of the impact of these antibiotics on the environment after their disposal. There are negative environmental impacts due to excretion of antibiotics through sewage or household wastes. Water antibiotics are found in the aquatic environment due to improper treatment of wastewater and disposal of unused prescription medicine. Treatment rate of antibiotics can vary from 20% to greater than 90% if advanced wastewater treatment is used. However, studies on conventional drinking water treatment processes have shown that the current technologies are not effective in removing these compounds.

How frequently are antibiotics found in our drinking water? The answer is still unclear; however, a group of researchers from Ontario, Canada, conducted a study to determine the occurrence of pharmaceuticals in drinking water. Of the 25 antibiotics used for the research, 12 were detected in finished drinking water. While the antibiotics in these water sources were found in extremely small concentrations that are not harmful to human health, but more research must be done to examine long-term exposure to low concentrations of drugs and the combined effects of multiple antibiotics. This is a major problem as antibiotics can sometimes cause resistance.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. When a bacterium becomes resistant, antibiotics cannot fight them, and the bacteria multiply. Let's say we have a colony of bacteria, an antibiotic can easily terminate most of its population but in some cases, there can be a certain bacterium that have special genes that allows it to protect itself against these antibiotics and these ones now have more freedom to grow, and they can even spread their genes to other bacteria in order to give them the same abilities. This is bad because the antibiotics are no longer able to control the bacterial growth which will in turn affect us. Antibiotic resistant bacteria can cause illnesses that were once easily treatable with antibiotics to become untreatable, leading to dangerous infections.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are often more difficult to kill and more expensive to treat. In some cases, the antibiotic-resistant infections can lead to serious disability or even death.The main cause of antibiotic resistance is overuse and misuse of antibiotics, as these allow the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Every time a person takes antibiotics, active bacteria (bacteria that antibiotics can still attack) are killed, but resistant bacteria are left to grow and multiply. This is how repeated use of antibiotics can increase the number of drug-resistant bacteria.

Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections like the common cold, flu, most sore throats, bronchitis, and many sinus and ear infections. Widespread use of antibiotics for these illnesses is an example of how overuse of antibiotics can contribute to the spread of antibiotic resistance. Other medical practises are also being developed to reduce the usage of antibiotics such as phage therapy and vaccines to prevent infections. Smart use of antibiotics is the key to controlling the spread of resistance in the present scenario.

Coming to our daily domestic life, certain easy measures can be taken to curb antibiotic resistance, like:

  • Take the prescribed antibiotic exactly as your Doctor tells you.
  • Try to insist on vaccinal medication instead of antibiotics.
  • Never skip doses as it may infer to taking more doses of antibiotics.
  • Never take an antibiotic for a viral infection like a cold or the flu.
  • Never insist for an antibiotic, try to avoid.
  • Never save antibiotics for the next time you get sick.
  • Never take antibiotics prescribed for someone else.
  • Unused and expired medication should not be flushed down in drain or through waste disposal.
  • Safely dispose the leftover and expired medication.

Author: S Deepak Mohan Reddy, CBIT (First year B Tech [Biotechnology]), Hyderabad.

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Posted By : ScienceIndia Administrator
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