Curing the antibiotics disease

Limiting the prescription of antibiotics to only the treatment of bacterial diseases and not the viral ones is only a partial remedy for the scourge of antibiotic resistance.

There is also evidence that the widespread use of antibacterials such as triclosan, used in products from hand soaps to toothpaste, may also be contributing to antibiotic resistance.

Triclosan is not an antibiotic but a compound which, instead of killing bacteria, stops it from growing.

Researchers at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, found that bacteria exposed to antibiotics and triclosan were 10,000 times more likely to survive than those that were exposed to only antibiotics.

Already, the United States Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of triclosan in consumer hand soaps, and is considering further restrictions.

Another source of antibiotic resistance stems from the indiscriminate use of antibiotics in animal feed. This problem is especially grave in China, where growing demand for meat has led to increasing livestock production and a resulting antibiotic resistance.

The world urgently needs to find ways of keeping livestock healthy other than the use of antibiotics.

Our misguided perceptions and short-term focus have led to a growing menace of antibiotic resistance.

Will the world return to the dystopian pre-antibiotics era, when even a simple bacterial infection could kill?

The world needs to embark on a concerted effort to counter this scourge before it is too late.

Maria Loh Mun Foong (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2017, with the headline 'Curing the antibiotics disease'. Print Edition | Subscribe