World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2017: Seek Advice from a Qualified Healthcare Professional Before Taking Antibiotics

World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2017: Seek Advice from a Qualified Healthcare Professional Before Taking Antibiotics

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Highlights:

  • Antibiotic resistance is a global emergency that requires immediate attention
  • The Antibiotic Awareness Week is being celebrated to create awareness regarding this grave issue
  • Efforts are required at individual, social, health care and government levels to prevent the situation from worsening
The World Antibiotic Awareness Week is being celebrated in the week of 13th to 19th November 2017 by the World Health Organization (WHO) to increase awareness about the pressing problem of antibiotic resistance. The theme of this year's antibiotic awareness week is: Seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional before taking antibiotics.
World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2017: Seek Advice from a Qualified Healthcare Professional Before Taking Antibiotics

Since their discovery nearly a century ago with the introduction of penicillin, antibiotics have saved innumerable lives. Infections that were once considered fatal have been conquered. The initial antibiotics were followed by antibiotics from different chemical groups that covered more bacteria. Unfortunately, a problem started appearing with the widespread use of the drugs - bacteria started developing resistance to antibiotics, making the infection more difficult to treat. Drug resistant infections require treatment with higher and more costly antibiotics and patients often require hospitalization.

Some amount of antibiotic resistance is natural and unavoidable. However, if antibiotics are used rampantly and irresponsibly, the problem can get blown out of proportion. Factors that contribute to the acceleration in drug resistance include:
  • Lack of measures to prevent and control infections: If infections can be prevented, the need for antibiotics will not arise
  • The availability of poor-quality medicines: Poor-quality medications may contain lower doses of the active ingredient. Thus, the bacteria will be exposed to lesser dose than required, thereby promoting the development of resistance
  • Inadequate laboratory facilities to detect and report antibiotic resistance: If adequate laboratory facilities that can detect antibiotic resistance are not available, it could affect the right choice of antibiotic for an infection, thereby allowing the resistant bacteria to multiply
  • Inadequate surveillance and regulation of the use of antimicrobial medicines: Without necessary policies in place by the government to oversee the antibiotic use by health care providers and pharmacies, it will be difficult to control the rampant antibiotic use
If immediate steps are not taken, we could be moving back to the pre-antibiotic era, where bacteria ruled the world.

There are several steps that individuals, the society, the medical community and governments can take to slow the grave problem of antibiotic resistance:
  • People should use antibiotics only as prescribed by the physician. They should take only the prescribed dose and for the prescribed duration. One should also not use antibiotics remaining from the treatment of other family members. Other steps to prevent infections like washing hands before meals, eating safe food and drinking clean water, and taking vaccines should also be adopted so that antibiotics can be avoided. The responsibility to prevent antibiotic resistance lies with each of us, since antibiotic resistance affects all, irrespective of age, caste, sex or geographic location.
  • Doctors and health workers should be sensitized to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. They should be advised to use antibiotics only when necessary, and to use the appropriate antibiotic according to the type of infection and the resistance pattern of the bacteria. Antibiotic treatment should not be used for viral infections, where they are ineffective. Doctors should spend enough time with their patients explaining the importance of taking the antibiotic as prescribed. Pharmacists should be strictly advised to dispense antibiotics only on the receipt of a valid prescription. Special steps to prevent the spread of infection in hospitals are essential, since bacterial resistance is a common problem in hospital-acquired infections.
  • The government should introduce policies for the proper use of antibiotics. Guidelines should be in place for pharmacists to dispense antibiotics with prescription only. Programs should be organized to increase awareness among the health community as well as the general public about the dangers of antibiotic resistance. Programs on vaccination and infection-prevention methods should also be given priority. Universal policies are also advised, since antibiotic resistance is not limited to its place of origin, given the ease and frequency of global travel.
  • Farm owners should be discouraged from the rampant use of antibiotics in poultry and animal farms, where antibiotics are used to promote growth and prevent infections in the livestock. This indiscriminate use is a common cause of antibiotic resistance in bacteria in the livestock, which can spread to humans through the environment or through food. The farm owners should be advised to adopt other methods to prevent infection. The WHO has set guidelines for the use of medically-important antimicrobials in food producing animals. These are available at:
    http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/cia_guidelines/en/
To address the issue of antibiotic resistance, the WHO had endorsed a global action  plan in 2015 which includes five aims - improve awareness of antimicrobial resistance, strengthen surveillance and research, reduce infections, reduce the use of antimicrobial medications and ensure sustainable investment in countering antimicrobial resistance.

The WHO has established the Global Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (GLASS), the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP) and Interagency Coordination Group on Antimicrobial Resistance (IACG) to deal with the issue.

The thought that the world may run out of antibiotics and come back to a point where we were a century ago is indeed frightful. More research to develop more antibiotics that can tackle the drug-resistant bacteria is the need of the hour. However, the development of antibiotics is a long and costly process, and is not always successful. Antibiotics that are being developed are usually modifications of the existing antibiotics and may only be short-term solutions. Small steps towards the disciplined use of antibiotics are much simpler to implement and adopt, provided each and every one of us takes on the responsibility to prevent antibiotic resistance on our shoulders!

References:

  1. World Antibiotic Awareness Week, 13-19 November 2017 - (http://www.who.int/campaigns/world-antibiotic-awareness-week/en/)
  2. Antibiotic resistance - (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/antibiotic-resistance/en/)

Source: Medindia

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