Antibiotic resistance

Bacteria live in or on every one of us. Most are useful to us, for example, they help to digest our food. But some bacteria can make us ill. We sometimes need antibiotics to make us better again. Antibiotics are drugs that kill bacteria or slow their growth. This helps the body to heal itself. A major disadvantage of antibiotics is that bacteria can become invulnerable to them. We call this resistance. That's why doctors need to be reluctant to prescribe antibiotics. The more often you use antibiotics, the greater the risk that bacteria will become resistant. Infections with resistant bacteria are more difficult to treat.

Resistance in people in the Netherlands

Resistance is a relatively small problem in the Netherlands thusfar, but is regarded as a threat as it is a much greater problem in most other countries. This is because the only way to get antibiotics in the Netherlands is if a doctor prescribes them for you. Doctors only prescribe antibiotics when it is necessary, so not in case of viral infections such as flu or a cold. Furthermore, healthcare institutions are aware of this problem. If someone in a hospital or nursing home is infected with resistant bacteria, this patient is cared for in isolation and the nursing staff involved take strict hygiene measures. This prevents this bacterium from making other people sick.

Resistance in animals in the Netherlands

Veterinarians also prescribe antibiotics, mainly for livestock farms. In the Netherlands, minimal amounts of antibiotics are used to treat people, but in the past relatively large amounts of antibiotics were used at livestock farms. These days, however, the use of antibiotics in animals has been greatly reduced.

The most common resistant bacteria in the Netherlands are listed below. Europe, too, focuses primarily on these bacteria:

  • MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus)
  • VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococci)
  • ESBL-producing bacteria (Extended Spectrum Beta-Lactamase)
  • Bacteria resistant to carbapenem

How to prevent the spread of resistant bacteria?

Antibiotic resistance: why do some antibiotics fail?

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