How Antibiotic Resistance Impacts Infections in Healthcare Environments

Antibiotics are one of the major breakthroughs of modern medicine, the development of which has had a significant impact on life expectancy and the quality of life globally. Before the antibiotic era, there was no effective treatment for infections such as pneumonia, gonorrhea, or rheumatic fever. Hospitals were full of patients with blood poisoning contracted from a cut or a scratch, and doctors could do little for them but watch, wait, and hope. Antibiotics have also made many great medical advancements possible, including cancer treatments, organ transplants, and complicated surgical procedures. Without antibiotics, the infection complications of these medical interventions would be too frequent, harmful, and lethal in many cases. However, our misuse of antibiotics in humans, animals, and agriculture has led to the widespread rise of antibiotic resistance. 

In recent years, growing human and animal populations have accelerated the transfer and spread of resistant strains of bacteria, turning them into a global concern. When these resistant strains of bacteria cause an infection, it’s no longer a simple matter of prescribing the “usual” antibiotics. When caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, common diseases are increasingly challenging to treat and threaten rising numbers of people worldwide.

Related: Antibiotic-Resistance: How Drug Misuse In Agriculture Is Hazardous To Human Health 

The rise of antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats in healthcare today. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 2.8 million people develop an infection from antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year in the United States. Over 35,000 people die.

How Did Antibiotic Resistance Happen? 

Antibiotics are compounds produced by bacteria and fungi capable of killing or inhibiting competing microbial species. It’s likely that this phenomenon has long been known – the ancient Egyptians had the practice of applying a poultice of moldy bread to infected wounds. But it was not until 1928 that the first true antibiotic, penicillin, was discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming, Professor of Bacteriology at St. Mary's Hospital in London. As he accepted his Nobel Prize for the discovery of penicillin in 1945, Fleming warned that bacterial resistance had the potential to ruin the miracle of antibiotics:  

“But I would like to sound one note of warning. Penicillin is to all intents and purposes non-poisonous so there is no need to worry about giving a penicillin overdose and poisoning the patient. There may be a danger, though, in under dosage. It is not difficult to make microbes resistant to penicillin in the laboratory by exposing them to concentrations not sufficient to kill them, and the same thing has occasionally happened in the body. The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops. Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.”

– Sir Alexander Fleming, Nobel Lecture, 1945

Unfortunately, Fleming was correct. Resistant bacteria began to appear in the late 1940s. From then until the 1980s, pharmaceutical companies countered the problem by discovering many new antibiotics. At first, this was a highly successful and highly profitable enterprise. However, over time, a few things changed. Newly discovered antibiotics were only effective against a very narrow spectrum of infections, whereas the first ones had been broadly applicable, which meant they were much less profitable. For decades, antibiotics were heavily overprescribed, including for viral infections that they had no effect on. As pharmaceutical companies began developing a wide range of medications taken for long periods (such as antidepressants and cholesterol medications) that proved to be extremely profitable, they stopped trying to discover new antibiotics. Today, antibiotics are so unremunerative that most large pharmaceutical companies have stopped developing them. Private companies that do find new antibiotics end up going bankrupt before their drugs become available to the public. 

Over time, some strains of bacteria have continued to acquire resistance. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antimicrobial resistance (AMR) develops when bacteria no longer respond to antibiotics that were previously effective and able to cure an infection, which means that treatments no longer work for diseases caused by microorganisms that have developed resistance. The increase in infections like this raises the risk of diseases spreading in healthcare environments, communities, and agriculture. It also means that illnesses last longer, mortality rates are higher, and treatment costs go up because alternatives need to be found. Alarmingly, bacteria can pass along resistance by sharing genetic information between individual bacteria and even across species. Now, bacteria that are resistant to many antibiotics are becoming more and more common, and, increasingly, some bacteria strains are resistant to all antibiotics. 

Recently, the CDC began publishing an annual report on the greatest antibiotic-resistant threats in the U.S. The 2019 report has 18 pathogens listed as either an urgent, serious, or concerning threat. Some of these play significant roles in many healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), including Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), Clostridium difficile (C. diff), and Candida auris (C. auris)

What Can We Do About Antibiotic Resistance? 

As Fleming warned, inappropriate use of penicillin or any antibiotic can result in resistance. And just as resistance has been with us since just after the discovery of penicillin, so has unnecessary antibiotic use. According to the CDC, approximately 30% of antibiotics given in U.S. hospitals are inappropriate – based on suboptimal choice or unnecessary overall. Yet, we know that it is exposure to antibiotics to large populations that drives the evolution of resistance and not just exposure of antibiotics to a single individual. Alarmingly, research shows that overuse of antibiotics in a hospital, or ward, may portend resistance to multiple patients. Public health organizations around the world (including the CDC) have combined efforts to help combat antibiotic-resistance, through antibiotic stewardship; though it’s still not enough. 

Thankfully, antibiotic-resistant does not mean disinfectant-resistant. One way to combat bacterial infections is to prevent them from occurring. Infection prevention and control practices such as proper handwashing, thorough cleaning, and disinfection practices are quintessential in the fight against antibiotic resistance. While antibiotics are effective against infectious bacteria inside the body, using a disinfectant product, such as Vital Oxide, to eliminate pathogens on surfaces can help prevent bacteria from causing infections in the first place. 

NOTE: Do not ever ingest or inject cleaning or disinfectant products. This is not an effective method for treating infection and it is extremely dangerous. Disinfectants, when properly used, are very beneficial on objects and surfaces to help kill bacteria and viruses. 

Vital Oxide is unique in that it is highly effective against a range of pathogens while being colorless, odorless, and free from harsh chemicals and harmful fumes and residues. It also has a safety rating that is not common with other disinfectants. Vital Oxide has the lowest toxicity level that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives for pesticide (disinfectant) applications – Category 4 – which means that you do not need to wear gloves or any other personal protection equipment while applying it for general use. 

Vital Oxide makes the likelihood of humans and animals becoming infected with bacteria and viruses less of a threat. Vital Oxide is NSF certified D2 (No Rinse Required) as a food contact surface sanitizer, and kills 99.999% of bacteria, including infectious bacteria commonly found in healthcare environments, including E. coli, Norovirus, Penicillin-Resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae, and MRSA. Currently, Vital Oxide is being used in hospitals and other healthcare environments across the globe to combat a range of pathogens, including SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19. 

At Vital Oxide, we’re proud to offer a revolutionary disinfectant powerful enough to kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria without harsh chemicals. Follow us on Instagram (@vitaloxideofficial) for more great cleaning and disinfecting tips. If you have any questions, please Contact Us or Send Us a Message on Facebook. We're here to help.
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