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Bracing for the superbugs: Is the post-antibiotic era near?

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Antibiotic-resistant germs, also known as "superbugs," are bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites that have developed the ability to resist the effects of antibiotics. This happens when bacteria develop mechanisms to defend themselves against antibiotics or adapt to them, making them less effective.

When antibiotics are overused or used inappropriately, such as taking them when they are not needed or not completing a full course of treatment, the bacteria may become resistant to the antibiotics. This can make infections more difficult to treat and may require the use of more powerful antibiotics or multiple antibiotics, which can increase the risk of side effects and complications.

Antibiotic resistance is a growing public health threat, as it can lead to more severe and persistent infections, longer hospital stays, and higher healthcare costs. It is important to use antibiotics only when necessary, and to take them as prescribed, in order to help prevent the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant germs.

There is a real danger of entering a post-antibiotic era, in which many common infections and illnesses would no longer be treatable with antibiotics.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health today. Some infections that were once easily treated with antibiotics, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and gonorrhea, are now becoming harder and sometimes impossible to treat.

If we do not take action to address antibiotic resistance, we risk a future where common infections could become deadly, and routine medical procedures like surgery, chemotherapy, and childbirth could become much riskier. It is crucial that we take steps to prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including the responsible use of antibiotics, the development of new antibiotics, and investments in research and development of alternative treatments.


Dr. Jason Bowling, professor and infectious disease specialist at UT Health San Antonio, and chief epidemiologist at University Health.

Dante Fenolio, Ph.D. VP- Center for Conservation and Research at the San Antonio Zoo

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*This interview will be recorded on Tuesday, April 25.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi