The discovery of antibiotics in the 1920s was a medical revolution. Suddenly it was possible to save the lives of people who would otherwise have died from bacterial infections. Since then, we have been carelessly overusing antibiotics globally without considering that it drives the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. For example, people have been given antibiotics for infections that can heal just as well without treatment, and healthy animals have been given antibiotics to prevent disease that to a large extent could be avoided by good animal husbandry practices. Antibiotics have also been used as a growth promoter in food producing animals. In addition, pharmaceutical factories have released antibiotics into the environment in the manufacturing process. The pharmaceutical industry is developing new antibiotics, but the process is slow.
While overuse is a problem globally, there are also parts of the world where certain antibiotics are instead not available. This inequality has serious consequences. For example, it contributes to the high number of children that die from pneumonia in these parts of the world
Antibiotics do not work against resistant bacteria
Antibiotic resistance means that bacteria have changed and are no longer sensitive to the antibiotic. Resistance is how the bacteria adapt to their environment in order to survive. When disease-causing bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, the risk that an infection takes longer to treat or that the treatment does not work at all increases. Ultimately, the patient could die from the infection.
A major threat to human and animal health
Today, antibiotic resistance is a growing public health problem, even in Sweden. Our modern, advanced healthcare is dependent on functioning antibiotics in connection with, for example, operations, intensive care or cancer treatments. Antibiotics are also important for treating diseases in animals and for securing the food supply.
Knows no border
Antibiotic resistant bacteria spread the same way other bacteria do – throughout our entire world. This means that they can be transferred between humans and animals but also via food and our environment. They spread globally through both travel and trade. Bacteria can also spread antibiotic resistance by transferring resistance genes, both to closely related bacteria within a species as well as to different bacterial species. The more antibiotics we use, the faster resistance will increase.