THE END OF ANTIBIOTIC ERA!!! We are approaching the point where antibiotics will become scarce. It’s a worrying idea and a serious predicament. That’s what motivates me to keep going.

By Areeba Waheed

By 2050, the World Health Organization projects that drug-resistant illnesses would be the leading cause of mortality in people globally, with death rates rising from 700,000 per year to 10 million. Since their introduction, antibiotics have saved countless lives; yet, antimicrobial resistance is now a major worldwide health concern.

Might there come a moment when patients are afraid of getting common infections. I’m hoping that research in academia can assist find some solutions.


Less than a century after their development, antibiotics are in the midst of an existential crisis. Drugs that fight bacteria are being overused in both humans and animals, which reduce their effectiveness. Meanwhile, the pace of new antibiotic research and development (R&D) has slowed to a standstill, putting the globe at risk of ushering in a perilous period in which common infections are incurable.

Antibiotics are a family of medications that are used to treat bacterial infections. They were first developed in the late 1920s with the discovery of penicillin.

During World War II, antibiotics were mass produced, and in the second half of the 20th century, their use skyrocketed. Over a hundred different antibiotics have been created.

Why are they so important?

The medications are essential for individuals whose immune systems have been compromised by chemotherapy or significant surgery.

“A lot of what we do every day in the hospital depends on having antibiotics work effectively,” says Kathy Talkington, an expert on antibiotics at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Every year, tens of billions of antibiotic doses are used worldwide; a significant number of these doses, according to medical professionals, are wasted on people who have viruses or other disorders that do not react to antibiotics. At least one-third of all antibiotic prescriptions in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are unnecessary. The issue is probably worse in the dozens of nations where antibiotics may be purchased legally or online. In 2015, the WHO discovered that more than half of the 133 countries that provided data had antimicrobials available without a prescription.

Why are certain bacteria developing greater antibiotic resistance?

That question has a multi-part response. The fact that bacteria often mutate—all microorganisms mutate—naturally and spontaneously is one of the most crucial factors. However, there are things you may do to put pressure on them to mutate even more and acquire drug resistance.

The overuse of antibiotics, especially their inappropriate usage, is one of the main causes of some bacteria developing drug resistance today. This includes utilising antibiotics when you don’t actually need to—for example, when you treat a viral infection you thought was bacterial because you thought it was bacteria, or when you treat someone with the incorrect antibiotic that isn’t really appropriate for the bacteria in question.

In other words, if you use antibiotics, you will eliminate all the germs that are sensitive. The majority of the survivors will be the hardy ones.

More and more germs will start to appear that are largely untreatable or extremely challenging to treat as a result of the global antibiotic resistance problem. Additionally, if those bacteria spread widely, that might trigger a catastrophic disaster.

An ordinary, everyday example would be someone having surgery, such as a hip or knee replacement or having stomach surgery. After that, they contract an infection from a hospital patient who has bacteria that are resistant to treatment. An infection that you struggle to cure after what should be a routine operation could cause significant morbidity or even mortality. A normal surgical scenario develops into a crisis.

Bacteria’s that needs to be addressed:

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is still a problem, which is alarming. Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, is an additional alarming one. That issue is becoming worse. We observe this in hospital patients who have immunosuppression due to, for instance, transplants or medications that treat their inflammatory condition or malignancy. We frequently encounter Clostridium difficile (C. Difficile), a bacterium that also causes infections when antibiotics are abused, in nursing homes and hospital settings.

MRSA, CRE, and C. Difficile are the three most significant ones. Additionally, gonorrhoea, a sexually transmitted disease, is becoming more and more resistant to certain populations worldwide.

How agriculture contributes to Antibiotic resistance?

Animals are also fed antibiotics, especially those grown on industrial farms for human consumption. In the US, farms are thought to be responsible for around 70% of all antibiotic sales; in some other nations, this percentage is much higher.

Although experts advise vets to save antibiotics for sick animals, breeders frequently utilise the medications to stop disease and promote animal growth, which boosts their earnings. Through the food chain and other indirect routes, resistant bacteria can move from animals to people and are a result of this abuse.


Doctors and other medical professionals have expressed concern in recent years about the emergence of bacterial strains that are resistant to many medications, if not all available ones, and are frequently referred to as superbugs. The CDC identified four different bacterial species as “urgent concerns” in a study from 2019. As a result, it is getting much harder to cure illnesses including pneumonia, gonorrhoea, and urinary tract infections. For instance, the WHO reports that the class of antibiotics used to treat urinary tract infections is no longer considered effective for more than half of patients in many regions of the world, and that the prevalence of tuberculosis strains that are resistant to commonly prescribed antibiotics is rising.

Drug-resistant infections cause patients to stay in the hospital longer and have a higher mortality rate. It is estimated that each year, at least 730,000 individuals worldwide pass away from diseases brought on by bacteria and other microbes. Without containment measures, according to some health analysts, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic future in which superbugs may cause up to ten million deaths annually by 2050.

Lack of new Antibiotics production:

Since 1987, no new class of antibiotics has been identified, signalling a lack of new drug development. Although scientists have created modifications to existing medications, many claim that these are insufficient to keep up with the evolution of bacteria and other germs.

This is partially due to the market for antibiotics being avoided by many pharmaceutical companies in recent years because it is less lucrative than the market for medications for chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. The development of new medications has also grown more challenging, which caused many pharmaceutical companies to stop investing in research and development for antibiotics in the 1990s.

Many specialists stress the need for medications that can stop so-called gram-negative bacteria, which are among the hardest to cure. Only nearly half of the more than forty antibiotics that are now under development seem to target the gram-negative bacteria that the WHO has classified as significant risks.

“It’s not enough,” says Pew’s Talkington


Stop using antibiotics? No, this is not the matter of concern. The matter of concern is stop abusing antibiotics. We need to devise new ways to treat bacterial infections including production of new antibiotics. The standstill pharmaceutical industry of antibiotics needs to gear up.

By Areeba Waheed

Student of Bachelor’s in Microbiology, University of Agriculture Faisalabad.