At all times, antibiotics have been powerful medicines that have saved us from infections, but did you know that we are abusing their power? The World Health Organization (WHO) is alarmed that drug resistance is spreading around the world, and antibiotics that were once invincible are losing their effectiveness. Infections we once feared—pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, salmonellosis—are returning because of this loss of power.
The battle is at a critical point. We are facing not only more difficult infections to treat, but also higher mortality rates. The WHO warns us that if we don’t change the way we use these drugs, new drugs will suffer the same fate and become useless.
Many antibiotics are found in food.
According to an article in the journal TecSciencie, an astounding 70% of antibiotics are not designed to prevent or treat animal and plant diseases in food production. Instead, they are used to stimulate growth spurts in young and improve yields.
However, this approach used by the agricultural industry is a public health concern. The article highlights that this method has serious consequences: the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that get to humans through the food we eat, creating a significant risk to our health.
Marcos de Donato, professor in the Bioprocesses and Cell Biology Research Group of the School of Engineering and Sciences (EIC), who is currently working on the discovery of resistant bacteria and is cited by TecScience, argues that antibiotics have been a milestone in human history, but today we are living in a pandemic because of their resistance.
De Donato told TecScience that “the error has spread to many levels. For example, they should only be used under the supervision and guidance of a physician, but most antibiotics are prescribed by general practitioners who are not infectious disease specialists. For their part, the public doesn’t really understand what they’re for and mistook them for flu symptoms.
He describes the lack of regulation of antibiotic use in agriculture as unbelievable. “You can buy tons of antibiotics with a simple prescription from a veterinarian and their use is not tracked. There is a lack of education for farmers and everyone involved in the food industry.”
Beware the sewers!
The scientist made another remark, which, of course, is alarming. The gravity of the situation is exacerbated by an additional factor: wastewater from urban areas and medical facilities, which has not undergone any form of treatment for resistant bacteria, is often used in secondary irrigation systems.
“It is known that in agricultural areas with widespread use of this type of water for irrigation, infestations with much more resistant microorganisms are frequent. This is a problem that needs to be addressed from an educational point of view, with people who use antibiotics, and from a regulatory point of view, ”the specialist told the scientific journal.
“What we are doing on a large scale is we are killing what is sensitive and leaving everything that resists. Antibiotics are a necessary weapon to deal with health problems, but they should only be used as a strategy when absolutely necessary.”
Immersed in the world of microbes, bacteria surround us in the air we breathe, in the water we drink, and in the food we eat. However, the problem is how bacterial resistance changes our ability to cope with diseases that, in theory, should not be serious.
Marcos de Donato points out that diseases that were previously manageable now have complications. Urinary tract infections and fighting diabetes, which weakens the immune system and can lead to diabetic foot and even amputations, are prime examples of this transformation.
The solution, he says, is not to eliminate antibiotics entirely, but to use them accurately and avoid negative consequences. They are a valuable tool, but their use must be carefully considered to ensure long-term effectiveness. This view highlights the importance of responsible governance in maintaining our health and well-being.