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21 de September, 2023

Superbugs: a microscopic problem of global proportions

Superbactérias: um problema microscópico, mas de proporções globais

In recent years, we have witnessed a growing threat to the effectiveness of antibiotics and the treatment of bacterial infections: superbugs and the development of antimicrobial resistance.

This phenomenon has put the health and well-being of the world’s population at risk, raising concerns among health professionals, researchers and health authorities.

Understanding how this microscopic problem of global proportions occurs is essential in order to take appropriate measures and tackle it. But what are superbugs and how do they develop?

What are superbugs?

Superbugs are bacterial strains that have become resistant to various antibiotics. These bacteria acquire the ability to survive and multiply even in the presence of antimicrobial drugs, making them more difficult to eliminate than ordinary bacteria.

The unsanitary conditions to which animals are exposed on a daily basis in livestock farming, coupled with overcrowded environments and an excessive use of antibiotics, drives the emergence of superbugs and their spread becomes extremely easy.

Watch the video produced by Alianima here and get a better understanding of how superbugs arise and develop.

What is antimicrobial resistance?

Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites to resist the effects of antimicrobials. This occurs when these microorganisms undergo genetic mutations or acquire resistance genes, making them less susceptible to the action of these drugs.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 700,000 people die each year as a result of resistant bacteria. In Brazil, the number of victims reaches 20,000 a year.

This is worrying because it limits the treatment options available to fight infections. This means that diseases that were previously treatable with antimicrobial drugs can become more difficult to control, resulting in more serious health complications, a greater risk of spreading to other people and increased health costs.

What causes antimicrobial resistance?

Antimicrobial resistance is a natural phenomenon that occurs due to mutations or the transfer of resistance genes between bacteria. However, it is accelerated by the improper and excessive use of antibiotics, especially in farming and medical practice, resulting in the selection of resistant bacterial strains.

What are the consequences of antimicrobial resistance?

Antimicrobial resistance has significant consequences for public health. Infections caused by superbugs are more difficult to treat, resulting in higher morbidity, mortality and healthcare costs. This limits treatment options and, unfortunately, there are insufficient political, economic and scientific efforts aimed at developing new antimicrobial molecules capable of combating these microorganisms.

In addition, the lack of effective treatment options can jeopardize important medical procedures, such as surgeries, organ transplants and cancer treatments.

How can we prevent antimicrobial resistance?

Preventing antimicrobial resistance requires a comprehensive approach. It is essential to promote the rational use of antibiotics, ensuring that they are properly prescribed, avoiding self-medication and stopping treatment earlier than stipulated by the doctor.

In farming, these drugs should only be used when associated with good animal management, vaccination and hygiene practices, and their use as growth promoters and/or to prevent disease should be discouraged.

In addition, proper hygiene practices help prevent infections and reduce the spread of resistant bacteria.

Where can I find out more about superbugs?

Information is the key to raising awareness. That’s why we’ve put together a booklet with the main information on the subject, based on up-to-date official data and guidelines, so that you can join us in this fight, making better choices and demanding, as a consumer, products manufactured responsibly and transparently.

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