Antimicrobial Resistance

Are YOU going to die by 2050?

Sustaining your health requires a lot of good bacteria…but some strains may end up killing you.

In 1928 Alexander Flemming (with the help of a mouldy rock melon) discovered the first antibiotics, drugs that destroyed bacteria. This was a revolution as at the time people were dying from the smallest infected wounds or flu.

Antibiotics work in one of two ways:

Firstly, there are Bacteriostatic antibiotics. Static meaning – to stop. These slow the growth of the bacterium by preventing it from multiplying. They do this by interfering with DNA replication, protein production or messing up the cell’s metabolism or enzyme activity.

Bactericidal antibiotics, however, kill the bacteria. Cidal meaning – to kill.  The most common way they do this is by destroying the bacterium’s cell wall, leaving nothing to hold it together.

The only problem with antibiotics is that they can sometimes leave bacteria that they can’t destroy. These antibiotic resistant bacteria exist due to random genetic mutations and now have reduced competition for resources. The bacteria then multiply and a resistant strain multiplies. This is an excellent example of Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection.

So…should we be worried?


It’s estimated that currently 700 000 people die annually from bacteria which exists due to increasing antimicrobial resistance. This is forecast to escalate to 10 000 000 by 2050 by the British Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (that’s more than the casualties from cancer in 2014!). Sadly, the countries currently addicted to antibiotics will not face the most severe consequences. Rather, it is the developing world – as stated by Jim O’Neill (leader of the review), “In Nigeria, by 2050, more than one in four deaths would be attributable to drug resistant infections, while India would see an additional two million lives lost every year.” In the developed world, however, you’re looking at 1/6 transplant patients dying from untreatable infections…

Global map of deaths

What can you do?

  1. Buy meat that is not subject to routine antibiotics. 80% of antibiotics sold in the US go to animals and this is often given routinely to counteract the impacts of poor conditions. Good conditions = less antibiotics.
  2. Ask your doctor why you’re taking the antibiotics. From the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, “studies have demonstrated that treatment indication, choice of agent, or duration of therapy can be incorrect in up to 50% of the instances in which antibiotics are prescribed. One study reported that 30% of antibiotics received by hospitalized adult patients, outside of critical care, were unnecessary”.

With bacteria producing a new generation every 20 minutes and the stakes as high as they are, the time to act is now.


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