The Evolutionary Change of Antibiotic / Antimicrobial Usage towards Treatment of Diseases

Antimicrobials have been in use for millennia as a novel approach when treating disease and infection. Even though early civilizations were not exactly aware of bacteria as causative agents, they still used extracts from medicinal plants to treat infected wounds. Nonetheless, the turn of the 20th century and succeeding population bloom meant that the proliferation of bacterial infections now became a central concern that had to be addressed expeditiously. The German physician, Paul Ehrlich, was among the first individuals to delve into the use of antimicrobials to treat diseases when he stumbled upon the effects of antibacterial chemicals (Podolsky, 2015, p. 90). His hypothesis opined that antibacterial chemicals could be harnessed in a manner that could allow physicians to selectively kill certain bacteria in their patients without harming the body.

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It was this postulation that led to the development of arsphenamine in 1909, arguably the first modern antibiotic. Nearly two decades later, Alexander Fleming also made an accidental discovery when he observed the phenomenal effects of the fungus Penicillium notatum on Staphylococcus bacteria. The isolation and growth of this mold in a pure culture soon led Fleming to conclude that had discovered a new antibiotic that was less noxious than other antiseptics widely used at the time. In addition to this, British pharmaceuticals also partnered with him to mass produce penicillin as the so-called “wonder drug” that would go on to save many lives during the Second World War (1939-45).

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 The rise in microbial infections globally has been an issue of concern for researchers and medical pundits alike. This is because there are numerous consequences of not treating a microbial infection correctly. One of the most common scenarios often involves the failure to complete prescribed antibiotics. The resulting effect is a multiplication and recurrence of the microbial infection which makes it quite difficult to treat. The importance of antibiotics in the treatment of microbial infections is typically underscored as a general technique aimed at preventing its spread and health complications that may stem from disease. Antibiotic resistance has now become a common problem impacting the treatment of microbial infections. Failure to complete the prescribed dosage results in the development of medical-resistant properties that neutralize the effects of antibiotics. Furthermore, the overuse of antibiotics also represents a classic instance where microbial infections are not treated appropriately. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the unnecessary usage of antibiotics in the treatment of microbial infections has physically altered bacteria and is one of the primary reasons why resistance is on the rise (“Antibiotic Resistance Threatens Everyone,” 2019). This realization has now led to a various campaigns urging patients to take antibiotics responsibly when seeking to treat a microbial infection and avoiding the development of any antibiotic-resistant properties.            

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There are several recommended prevention strategies which utilize antibiotics in a contemporary environment. One such approach utilizes environmental cleaning especially when seeking to prevent hospital-acquired infections. Though this method, healthcare practitioners have observed a significant decrease in Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) infections and recommend it as a strategy that should be applied across the entire sector (Rosen, 2017, p. 65).  

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Another recent prevention strategy is the use of topical decolonization and prophylaxis to reduce microbial infections such as S. aureus. Both preoperative and postoperative treatments have resulted in a decrease in health care-associated infections that, more often than not, exacerbate underlying medical conditions.   Furthermore, practicing caution in prescribing habits typically entails understanding different pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics in the formulation of antibiotics. A firm understanding of these properties aids in the subsequent determination of dosing regimens at an optimal level while avoiding the possibility of resistance.

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