Healthy environment is key for antibiotics to work

Unsplash / Nastya Dulhiier /

“Take a few antibiotics, you’ll be fine in a few days.” How often have we heard that advice?

But what may seem a quick and easy route out of sickness, is increasingly looking a dangerous one. And with a mounting price tag.

Every time a person or animal is treated with an antibiotic, some of that drug, often over two-thirds of what is taken, gets excreted into the environment. Once in the environment, in soil or water, these drug residues allow drug-resistant organisms to gain a foothold, increase in numbers, and subsequently spread to infect humans, animals and plants.

Antibiotics are just one type of antimicrobials. An antimicrobial is any substance – natural, semisynthetic or synthetic – that kills or inhibits the growth of microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa and fungi. They are found in pharmaceutical drugs such as antibiotics, antivirals and antifungals and in antiseptics, disinfectants, and personal care products. 

“While antimicrobial drugs are critical to protecting human and animal health, their misuse, including in the livestock sector, aquaculture and crop production, creates residues in our ecosystems. This pushes the environment out of balance, which in turn provides greater opportunity for drug-resistant organisms to flourish,” said Susan Gardner, Director of Ecosystems for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Read more…

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