Antibiotic Resistance: The Impact on the Environment and Sustainability

By Paramita Basu.

Published by The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The use of antibiotics has enabled us to cure many diseases, however, with their excessive usage, more pathogenic microbes are developing resistance to them resulting in the loss of their efficacy, and necessitating invention of new ones to replace them. This poses an urgent threat to public health all over the world as the sustainability and effectiveness of antibiotics is reduced, increasing the cost of health care. This emergence of resistance is a result of the overuse of antibiotics in people and animals, thus contaminating the natural environment and favoring rapid selection of antibiotic resistant organisms in the microbial population. The main factors leading to this widespread problem are the continued prescription of antibiotics to treat viral diseases or to promote faster growth of animals for production of food, as well as failure to complete the prescribed regimen, resulting in partial elimination of the pathogens. Bacteria can acquire resistance to an antibiotic through inheritance of specific/broad range antibiotic resistance genes, spontaneous genetic mutations, or by taking up resistance genes from other bacterial cells in the vicinity through gene transfer mechanisms. The contamination of microbial communities that are normally susceptible to antibiotics in sewage, soil, receiving waters and other environmental compartments from hospital effluents, animals, humans and food, creates antibiotic-resistant microbes which can transfer the resistance again back into human and animal pathogens and persist for extended periods. Antibiotics are a renewable resource in that ultimately microbes will revert back to susceptibility, but the time frame required for this reversion is very long, rendering that particular antibiotic unavailable to treat infections for decades. Much can be done to sustain the efficacy of current antibiotics including reducing and regulating the use of antibiotics, and/or reducing the factors that determine the transmission and persistence of antibiotic-resistant variants, in addition to controlling infection through better sanitation, education, and nutrition.

Keywords: Antibiotic Resistance, Sustainability, Public Health, Contamination of the Environment

The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp.117-135. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 3.320MB).

Dr. Paramita Basu

Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, Touro College of Pharmacy, New York, NY, USA