As we move rapidly toward this post-antibiotic world, there are a few things we can do now to slow our arrival at this doomsday scenario, and we'll need to continue doing even once we are immersed in a post-antibiotic world.
First off, let's stick to our basic weaponry. Getting rest, drinking fluids, exercising, making long-term investments in our health – all of this will make us less susceptible to infection. We should do this stuff now anyway, but certainly we will need to make the extra effort once we enter a world where a simple infection may not be treatable. And to otherwise keep infections at bay, we will have to take extra care in washing our hands and handling food.
Finally, some behavior changes will be necessary in how we approach antibiotics. Many bacteria have already built up a resistance to a number of antibiotics out there. To minimize our contributions to bacterial evolution of antibiotic resistance, we need to be careful about how we take antibiotics. Giving our bodies a chance to fight the infection before popping pills is a good start. If we don't expose the bacteria to the antibiotics, they can't develop resistance. And often our bodies do a fine job killing off infection without the help. Lastly, it's important to finish the entire course of antibiotics. By stopping early when we feel better, we're leaving those last bacteria that are better at battling the antibiotics to thrive, reproduce and build immunity to the drugs. We've got to nip it in the bud while we have the chance.
Author's Note: 5 Realities of a Post-antibiotic World
I was sitting at my kitchen table working on this article when my visiting brother-in-law complained of a mild sore throat and found a bottle of unused antibiotics in our medicine cabinet. As I watched him pop a pill knowing he probably had no infection and certainly had no intention of finishing the entire course, I wanted to shout out "Noooooooo!"
It's a funny thing – we're all in this together, but when it comes down to it and we don't feel good, we want a quick fix and don't want to think about the long-term effects of the choices we make. Writing this piece made me want to step up more and do my part in keeping the bacteria from developing drug resistance. Live a healthy lifestyle to keep infection away, try to fight off illness without drugs as long as is feasible, and then when I do take antibiotics, finish the whole course.
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