The introduction of antibiotics into clinical medicine in the 1930s and 1940s appeared to be a global health triumph that would last seemingly forever. However, that hasn’t been the simple, magnificent outcome. Antibiotics remain a critical tool in the fight against disease and infection. Countless lives have been and continue to be saved and bettered through their use. But their edge, unfortunately, has been blunted by misuse, questionable overuse and undeniable abuse as scores of antibiotic-resistant bacteria have emerged during the past several decades. The CDC estimates that each year at least 2 million people in the United States become infected with bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Understanding how this happens and developing strategies to limit the growing resistance to antibiotics has become an urgent global necessity. Antibiotic resistance can be linked to several factors. It is important that we learn what is driving the resistance, and the answers aren’t simple. Overuse clearly has been an issue. But disinfectants, cleaning chemicals and pollution are a few other contributors to the resistance.  In this entry we will explore some of the articles and studies that delve into the multiple contributors to antibiotic resistance and the strategies to limit the growing problem. We casually address this pressing issue at our own peril. The time is overdue that we get smart about antimicrobial resistance and develop the needed multi-pronged approaches to control the outcomes.

  • When bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, treatments become more difficult and alternative treatment approaches can be costly and dangerous – and difficult for many to access. The Baylor College of Medicine offers an overview of antibiotic resistance here.
  • The British Medical Journal aimed to systematically review the literature and, where appropriate, meta-analyze studies investigating subsequent antibiotic resistance in individuals prescribed antibiotics in primary care. It found that individuals prescribed an antibiotic in primary care for a respiratory or urinary infection develop bacterial resistance to that antibiotic. The effect is greatest in the month immediately after treatment but may persist for up to 12 months. This effect not only increases the population carriage of organisms resistant to first line antibiotics, but also creates the conditions for increased use of second line antibiotics in the community. (Effect of antibiotic prescribing in primary care on antimicrobial resistance in individual patients: systematic review and meta-analysis).
  • Biocidal Agents Used for Disinfection Can Enhance Antibiotic Resistance in Gram-Negative Species

CC BY-SA 3.0 Nick Youngson / Alpha Stock Images

Disinfectants are contributing to antibiotic resistance.

  • Bacterial resistance to disinfectants: present knowledge and future problems
  • Disinfectants Can Make Bacteria Resistant To Treatment
  • Effects of Biocides on antibiotic resistance

Air and soil pollution and the general introduction of pollutants into our environment also have had a profound impact on antimicrobial resistance, research tells us.

  • Antibiotic resistance linked to soil pollution
  • Petrol and diesel exhaust particles accelerate the horizontal transfer of plasmid-mediated antimicrobial resistance genes
  • Microbial Resistance to Metals in the Environment