Understanding antibiotic resistance
Understanding antibiotic resistance

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Understanding antibiotic resistance

4 Modern times

Since their introduction in the 1930s, antibiotics have saved millions of lives (Figure 3). Once-deadly diseases such as pneumonia and TB are now treatable and everyday infections and minor injuries are no longer potentially life-threatening.

Described image
Figure 3 Effect of antibiotics on death rates in England and Wales between 1931 and 1957 from (a) childbirth-related infection (puerperal fever) and (b) all infectious diseases. Data from Barber (1960). (The arrows indicate when specific antibiotics were introduced.)

Antibiotics are used extensively in medicine, for example to improve the survival rates of transplant and cancer patients, or for antibiotic prophylaxis, that is they are taken before routine surgical procedures to prevent infection. They are also used in dentistry and veterinary medicine, for agriculture and for many other non-therapeutic purposes. You will learn more about how antibiotics are used in Week 5.

Unfortunately, antibiotics are no longer the ‘magic bullets’ they once were. Our over-reliance on these drugs to prevent and/or treat a range of infections in both humans and animals, and for multiple other purposes, has left many antibiotics powerless as bacteria become resistant to them.

Antibiotic resistance can develop naturally in bacteria. However, the widespread use of antibiotics increases the selective pressure on bacteria to adapt and survive – that is, to develop resistance. You will learn more about this Weeks 4 and 5.

It is no coincidence that as antibiotic use has risen, so too has antibiotic resistance. For example, between 2000 and 2010, total global antibiotic consumption increased by over 30%, although there were country and regional variations (CDDEP, 2015).

UAR_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371