Drugs & Updates

What is Antibiotic Resistance and Why is it a Grave Concern?

The first antibiotic, salvarsan was deployed in 1910. In just 100 years antibiotics have changed the lives of mankind. They have extended overall life period by 23 years. The discovery of penicillin in 1928 led to the golden age of antibiotics. After this discovery, the growth of antibiotics peaked in the mid-1950s. Since then, a gradual decline in antibiotic discovery and the evolution of drug resistance in many human pathogens has led to the current antimicrobial resistance crisis.

The use of antibiotics for clinical use was the breakthrough of the 20th-century. Apart from this, antibiotics were also used in treating several infections, cancer therapy, organ transplant, and open-heart surgery. However, the discovery of antimicrobial resistance rapidly increased, with some of the infections being non-curable.

Uses of Antibioti

The common general uses of antibiotics are as follows-

  • Antibiotics are used in the treating several bacterial and some protozoal infections. They are non-effective against cold and flu and also against several viral infections.
  • They are also used in treating acne, skin infections such as impetigo, and sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia.
  • These drugs are also used in treating kidney infections, and some severe complications like cellulitis and pneumonia.
  • Apart from this, they are also used in the treating environmental pollution, and aquaculture.

Mechanism of Action of Antibiotic

Antibiotics are generally characterized by the presence of β lactam ring in their structure and functions by interrupting bacterial cell wall synthesis. β lactam stops the peptide chains from cross-linking during the formation of new peptidoglycan aka the backbone of the bacterial cell wall . Due to dis-orientation in the structure of peptidoglycan structure, bacterial lysis occurs due to a lack of bacterial cell wall structural integrity.

β lactam structure is similar to that of subunits of peptidoglycan. It acts as the competitive inhibitor of transpeptidase, an enzyme involved in cross-linking of peptides, also called penicillin-binding protein.

Misusing Antibiotics

Antibiotics are used to treat several bacterial infections and has been misused. This has given rise bacterial resistance. The overuse of fluoroquinolone and other antibiotics fuels antibiotic resistance in bacteria, which can inhibit the treatment of antibiotic-resistant infections. The widespread use of fluoroquinolones as the first line of defense has led to a decrease in antibiotic sensitivity, with serious bacterial infections such as those associated with cystic fibrosis, where quinolones are among few viable antibiotics.

The issue of increasing antibiotic resistance, and the need to use antibiotics more wisely, has gained recognition at the highest political echelons. There is evidence for antibiotic-conserving interventions that all countries could adopt to reverse the global threat. Drug-resistant infections are already estimated to kill at least 700,000 people a year and could kill 10 million people a year by 2050 if left unchecked.

The potential impact of antibiotic resistance also threatens development and the global economy. Recent estimates warn that the economic damage from uncontrolled antimicrobial resistance could be comparable to that of the 2008 financial crisis. Bacteria itself can develop resistance, however, its continuous misuse and persistent overuse have accelerated its pace of developing resistance.


Antibiotic resistance is a complex problem that transcends borders and cannot be tackled by a single country or international agency. A coordinated, multisectoral response is needed, with global-level governance. Current multilateral guidance identifies many evidence-based interventions, but not all countries have the capacity to adopt them all.

A legally binding global treaty may help countries prioritize the most feasible interventions while increasing political will and providing an accountability mechanism. If its proposed provisions fall under the mandates of more than one agency, the treaty might best be negotiated under the UN.


Ritika Gupta

Ritika Gupta is an MPharm. graduate who is keen on spreading awareness about various unexplored medical fields through her writings.

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