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Understanding antibiotic resistance
Understanding antibiotic resistance

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Week 8: Alternatives to antibiotics

Introduction

As you should now appreciate, if we are to preserve antibiotics for the future, we need to make sure that they are used carefully and not wasted. In Week 7, you looked at two ways of reducing antibiotic use. This week, you will look at some alternatives to antibiotics.

Begin this week by watching the following video, which describes how vaccines can help to tackle antibiotic resistance.

Video 1 How vaccines help to beat superbugs
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

The wider use of vaccines can help to combat antibiotic resistance because they prevent infections in humans and animals, reducing the need for antibiotics (Figure 1).

Described image
Figure 1 Vaccination can reduce antibiotic use in humans.

In addition to vaccines, there are many new areas of scientific research that could lead to the development of future alternatives to antibiotics. In this week, you will look at some of this research.

You will focus on alternative treatments rather than alternative strategies that could be used to prevent infection. Consequently, you will not look at approaches such as the use of probiotics. Currently, none of these alternatives could replace antibiotics as a treatment for infections. However, using these alternatives in combination with antibiotics to treat minor infections could preserve antibiotics for treating life-threatening cases in the future.

By the end of this week, you should be able to:

  • identify some alternatives to antibiotics
  • explain how inhibiting quorum sensing decreases bacterial virulence
  • describe the advantages and disadvantages of using phage therapy to kill bacteria 
  • understand how predatory bacteria can be used to tackle infections
  • give examples of how traditional remedies can be used to treat infections.