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5. Apple (Malus domestica)

Apple croppedThere’s a gap between when antimicrobials are discovered and when they can be made in large quantities and tested for use in humans.

The antimicrobial era may have begun in the early 1900s, but the golden age of antibiotics was later, when many were approved for human use, from roughly the 1930s - 1980s. This flood of new medicines helped to prevent infection during surgeries, and sped up people’s recovery from common infections like pneumonia.

In farming, animals grown for meat started to be given antibiotics to help them grow bigger before slaughter. Antibiotics became a key bit of infrastructure that we rely on in our lives - for our health, for productivity, and even for our food.

Magnifying Glass smallHow do you think antimicrobials should be used in medicine, and how can you help?

Human medicine has benefited hugely from antibiotics, and we are lucky to have them to prevent and treat infection. But inappropriate use of antibiotics can be dangerous both for ourselves and others.

Sometimes people will ask their doctors for antibiotics that don’t work against their type of infection. For example, using an antibiotic, which attacks bacteria, won’t work against the flu, which is a viral disease. At other times, doctors may offer antibiotics ‘just in case’, even where patients are unlikely to get very sick.

This trail can’t give you individual medical advice, but we all have a responsibility to be good antimicrobial stewards, which means looking after the antimicrobials that we have and not using them when we don’t need them, so that they stay effective (without microbes evolving resistance to them) for as long as possible.

What can you do as an antimicrobial steward? For most of us, three key messages are:

  1. Don’t share antimicrobials with friends.
  2. Take health care professionals’ advice with regard to taking antibiotics.
  3. Make sure to get rid of any leftover antibiotics after completing your prescription safely. (Your pharmacy or doctor should accept leftovers and destroy them for you.)