The term ‘Antibiotic Resistance’ has been used a lot by the media over the past 2 or 3 years as has the term ‘Superbugs’. Antibiotic Resistance is not a new phenomenon. It was highlighted as long ago as 1945 when Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin said in his Nobel prize acceptance speech that incorrect use of the drug could lead to bacteria becoming resistant to penicillin’s actions. This indeed is what has happened in the intervening years. Incorrect use of antibiotics including overuse has led to a rise in antibiotic resistance. What do we mean by the phrase Antibiotic Resistance. A recent study by Dr Mark Henderson of the Wellcome Trust using focus groups found that people if they had heard the term antibiotic resistance thought that it was their body which becomes resistant to antibiotics, rather than the bacteria that cause drug-resistant infections. One person interviewed during the research said: “The more [antibiotics] you take, the more your body becomes resistant to it. They stop working, but I don’t take them very often.” This mis-conception means that patients taking antibiotics could stop taking them as soon as they were feeling better. Taking the full course of antibiotics that the doctor prescribes is ESSENTIAL to wipe out the cause of the infection. Stopping antibiotic treatment early could mean that any remaining bacteria are not killed and those that survive are now resistant to the antibiotic.
The term ‘superbug’ gives the incorrect impression that the bugs are super as ‘superfit’. The term also has nothing to do with computers! What the term generally means is that bacteria have become resistant to treatment with multiple antibiotics and therefore pose a much greater danger to the infected person than antibiotic sensitive bacteria. The correct medical term is multi-drug resistant (MDR) bacteria.