Solving the antibiotic resistance problem

Many people take antibiotics, in fact it is hard to understand how people ever managed without them. The trouble is, some people don’t finish the full course they have been prescribed, but stop taking them once their symptoms have gone. The few bacteria left are likely to be the ones most resistant to the antibiotic, and they will be the ones that go on to breed. Occasionally a highly resistant strain of bacteria results, and an antibiotic then  becomes useless in cases associated with that strain. Today, we have some diseases caused by bacteria that are resistant to almost all of our antibiotics.

I’m not sure whether this has already been tried, and I am already sick of googling today, but one approach must surely be to chemically tag each capsule in a prescription. At the end of a course, a patient might be forced to provide a blood sample, which could then be checked for the presence of each of the chemicals. This could be a precondition of the prescription. If a patient is found not to have taken the full course, they could be kept under supervision while they take a full course, imprisoned if need be. Or perhaps a heavy fine would suffice. It sounds a bit heavy handed of course, and only appropriate where the consequences justify it, but the creation of another resistant strain would affect very many people, and in some cases, people would die. When someone puts others’ lives at risk through their own selfishness or stupidity, then it is appropriate to be heavy handed.

I have no means of calculating the precise figures, but millions of lives have been saved by antibiotics in the past.  Millions in the future could die because of the actions of a few thousand today, so this is a problem we should take seriously, at least until we have the means to either design lots of new antibiotics or find other cures.

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3 responses to “Solving the antibiotic resistance problem

  1. I agree. I believe antibiotic resistance is a huge problem. There’s a lot of people who stop taking the medicines once the feel better.

    Some people don’t take it seriously because they believe that new medicines will be created to clean up their mess.

    It doesn’t work that way. I believe new education must be put out there so people know the severity of this issue.

  2. I was under the impression that bacteria/viruses were becoming resistant to drugs because of natural selection. Not the patient failing to finish the treatment. With millions of these things are being replicated every day or so inside of every infected person, genetic mutations accumulate quickly. Multiply that by all the people taking antibiotics and antivirals, and we have a genetic experiment that Darwin would have salivated over.
    True, not finishing the prescribed treatment can exacerbate this; but with all of the things we can be doing to deal with this problem, I can tell you one thing that wont work: fining and throwing sick people in jail for missing a blood test. We should certainly be making more noise about the problem of drug resistant bacteria and viruses, but we’re not going to create a healthy population by forcing them to take their meds on pain of arrest.

    “in some cases, people would die. When someone puts others’ lives at risk through their own selfishness or stupidity, then it is appropriate to be heavy handed.”

    I think you’ve read “the Prince” one too many times.

    • I am no microbiologist, but if the bacteria are exposed to the whole course, then the mutation would have to be much better to still survive than if the course is not finished. Most less successful mutations would be wiped out before they get a chance to get into the wild if the course is completed. So letting people take only part courses greatly increases the chances of mutations surviving, getting spread, and leading later to even better mutations.

      The Prince? Never read it, sorry.

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