The discovery of antibiotics has been one of the greatest milestones in human history.  After the discovery of Alexander Fleming of Penicillin and its wide use during World War II, countless lives have been saved. However, the widespread use and misuse of antibiotics in medicine as well in agriculture has led to the emergence of antimicrobial resistance.

According to recent studies, there is a reported 30% case of antibiotic misuse by the Canadian population. When misused, antibiotics can cause antibiotic resistance, thus making bacteria to survive even a reasonable dosage of antibiotics. Huge exposure to antibiotics accelerates the process of how they mutate and multiply rapidly and once they turn into drug-resistant bacteria, it will be harder to kill; making, infections also harder or even impossible to treat. To raise awareness about this issue and to promote knowledge regarding proper antibiotic usage, Antibiotic Awareness Week is held in Canada from November 18 to 24.

In instances like dental care, the misuse of antibiotics is still observable. Some people still believe that antibiotics can alleviate toothache and grab any antibiotic they can get their hands onto, without considering the risks of taking them. Taking unprescribed antibiotics can cause great harm to one’s health because a specific antibiotic is made to cure a specific disease. If you were prescribed antibiotics for upper respiratory tract infection, you cannot use them to relieve pain from a toothache. Aside from being ineffective, this practice will just put you at risk of infections that in the long run will be harder to treat.

Various bacterial infections can happen inside the mouth when a person neglects proper oral care. There are a lot of bacteria living inside the oral cavity. Some are good, and they help in keeping the mouth healthy and clean. However, some are bad bacteria and they can cause oral problems and diseases. Antibiotics are sometimes needed to treat these ailments, but take note that is not always the case.

The emergence of antimicrobial resistance threatens to bring us back to the pre-antibiotic era, an era where man’s longest lifespan was 46 years and the cause of death was mostly due to infections. In fact, projections by Jim O’ Neall shows that if we do not curb the overuse of antibiotics, by 2050, 10M people will be dying annually because of infections that are caused by drug-resistant organisms. There are already numerous bacterial infections that are hard to treat such as pneumonia, gonorrhea, tuberculosis, urinary tract infections, salmonellosis, and typhoid.

If antibiotics become ineffective in the future, people undergoing medical treatments will be at high risk. Those who are required to undergo chemotherapy and surgery are prone and at risk of acquiring life-threatening infections like chronic pneumonia and this is not the goal of antibiotics. Antibiotics were made to save lives, not end them. If we continue the massive misuse of antimicrobial drugs, it will only be a matter of time before it comes running after us. That is why antibiotic awareness is really needed in the society nowadays. Perhaps, this complex issue needs immediate action not just by healthcare workers but all sectors of society – microbiologists, ecologists, educators, policymakers, legislative bodies, agricultural and pharmaceutical industry workers, and most importantly, the public – You.

Antibiotic resistance is quickly growing to be one of the biggest worldwide health-related problems. To help raise awareness and spread knowledge about this problem, you can first start with yourself. It is of great essence that we educate ourselves. When you are experiencing an ailment, it is a must that you visit and consult your physician before consuming any type of medicine. When you are prescribed to take antibiotics, follow the instructions and take them diligently. If you miss one, do not double the dose the next time you take it. Do not use medicine leftovers to cure other simple diseases like toothache. This is a common mistake that most of us do. As petty as it may sound, always follow what the prescription says as doing otherwise might cause great harm.

Through the Internet, information can be accessed a lot easier now. Almost everything is accessible just by a click of our fingers. A lot of information sources, from scientific journals to interesting quizzes, can be found when you search for antibiotic facts. These materials will help you understand and know more about antibiotic misuse and its consequences. Share useful information about antibiotics with your family, friends and workmates. These actions towards antibiotic awareness can help in reducing the number of people who misuse prescribed antibiotics. To know more about antibiotic misuse and this week’s campaign, visit antibioticawareness.ca.