The COVID-19 pandemic has caused so much damage, but it’s not the first global health crisis and unfortunately won’t be the last. The next major health threat may not be a new disease, but it could very well be microbes developing resistance to existing drugs.
Microbes like bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites evolve just like any other living thing and, over time, develop resistance to the antimicrobials we use to fight them. Resistant microbes survive treatment and are able to pass on the trait that allowed them to survive: repeat, repeat, repeat. It’s called antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
AMR is already happening, and faster than our ability to develop new antimicrobials. If things keep up, we could face a return to a world where many infections are simply untreatable. But there are things you can do to help prevent this:
Reduce your risk of getting sick. Disease prevention is the best strategy to reduce AMR and help antimicrobial medications remain effective. Wash your hands frequently throughout the day and avoid touching your face with unwashed hands. Keep up to date with vaccinations.
Follow prescriptions exactly. Take medication exactly as prescribed by a medical professional, even if you start to feel better. There could still be some bacteria left in your system, and if you stop early, they’ll survive to pass on their resistance and multiply inside you again.
Keep an eye on pets. AMR develops in microbes in animals just like it does in humans. It’s important to keep animals safe: monitor them for injuries that could become infected, wash your hands before and after handling your pets’ food and take your animals to a veterinarian regularly.