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World Antibiotic Awareness Week: Future of Antibiotics Depends on All of Us

World Antibiotic Awareness Week: Future of Antibiotics Depends on All of Us

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  • World Antibiotic Awareness Week is celebrated on 18th - 24th November 2019
  • It aims to raise awareness about the importance of antibiotics and prevention of antibiotic resistance
  • Judicious use of antibiotics will help to save millions of lives worldwide

World Antibiotic Awareness Week is celebrated on 18th - 24th November 2019. It aims to raise awareness about the rapidly worsening situation arising from the spread of antibiotic resistance, which poses a highly serious threat to public health globally.

Antibiotics are crucial tools for treating a large number of infectious diseases. However, the rapid emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance seriously undermines the ability of nations to fight these infections.


World Antibiotic Awareness Week: Future of Antibiotics Depends on All of Us

The importance of antibiotics is underscored by the fact that if a person develops a deadly infection that can't be treated due to the unavailability of antibiotics, then the person will simply die!

Objectives of World Antibiotic Awareness Week

  • Raise awareness about antibiotics
  • Spread the message about the global threat of antibiotic resistance
  • Encourage best practices among doctors, patients, and the general public to halt the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance
  • Promote safe use of antibiotics through communication, education and training

History of World Antibiotic Awareness Week

World Antibiotic Awareness Week was established by the World Health Organization (WHO) in May, 2015 for prioritizing strategies to tackle antibiotic resistance, which is a global public health threat. This global action plan, formulated by WHO, was endorsed by the 68th World Health Assembly in May 2015.

The major milestones in scientific discovery that led up to the establishment of World Antibiotic Awareness Week go back over a century, which is highlighted below:
  • 1895: Louis Pasteur discovers the antibacterial properties of mold
  • 1907: Paul Erhlich develops the first synthetic antibiotic 'Salvarsan'
  • 1928: Sir Alexander Fleming discovers 'Penicillin'
  • 1945: Sir Alexander Fleming wins the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with Ernst Chain and Howard Florey
  • 1945-1947: Discovery of the antibiotics cephalosporins, chloramphenicol, tetracycline, colistin, and aminoglycosides
  • 1950's: Discovery of macrolides and chemical synthesis of quinolones, as well as the emergence of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureaus)

Antibiotics: Facts & Figures

  • Antibiotics should be taken as prescribed by the doctor
  • Antibiotics should never be shared with family or friends
  • Antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections such as cold and flu
  • Colistin and carbapenems are the last-line antibiotics when all others fail
  • 75 percent of antibiotic-resistant cases are due to hospital-acquired infections (HAI)
  • 33,000 deaths occur annually due to antibiotic-resistant infections
  • Highest burden of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae

Key Aspects of Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance arises when bacteria develop the ability to resist the action of antibiotics that would otherwise kill them. As a result, the number of antibiotics capable of treating life-threatening infections becomes severely limited.

WHO describes antibiotic resistance in the following way: "Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of these medicines. Bacteria, not humans or animals, become antibiotic-resistant."

There are currently 16 species of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, the most notorious of which is the Indian strain called NDM-1. This was first detected in New Delhi and hence called New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase-1 (NDM-1). NDM-1 is an enzyme that makes bacteria resistant to a wide range of beta-lactam antibiotics.

Vaccination prevents infections, thereby slowing down the spread of antibiotic resistance. Correct hand hygiene can prevent infections and reduce the chances of antibiotic resistance

Ways to Participate in the World Antibiotic Awareness Week Celebrations

Some of the ways to participate in the celebrations are briefly highlighted below:
  • Sharing messages, images, animated graphics, and videos on social media to spread the message about the global antibiotic resistance crisis
  • Organizing popular lectures for school and college students to sensitize them about the importance of hand hygiene, infection control, and prudent use of antibiotics
  • Disseminating information through handouts and posters about the vital importance of antibiotics and why these life-saving drugs need to be preserved for future generations
  • Playing informative videos on the topic of antibiotics in clinics, pharmacies, waiting rooms or lobbies to enlighten patients and their families
  • Organizing debates and panel discussions to ignite healthy discussions and explore diverse opinions about antibiotics

WHO's Strategies for Tackling Antibiotic Resistance

There is still time to turn the tide of antibiotic resistance and ensure that they retain their efficacy in the future. WHO has formulated the following strategies for tackling antibiotic resistance:
  • Generating awareness about the life-saving role played by antibiotics
  • Reducing infections, especially hospital-acquired infections (HAI)
  • Increasing surveillance to monitor the emergence of antibiotic resistance
  • Using antibiotics judiciously to prevent the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance
  • Committing to sustainable investments for tackling antibiotic resistance
  • Promoting research to develop new antibiotics with a novel mechanism of action

Health Tips for Preventing Antibiotic Resistance

The emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance can be prevented by reducing the risk of infections in the following ways:
  • Using antibiotics prudently and only when they are absolutely necessary
  • Frequent handwashing with soap and water
  • Cleaning and covering open wounds with a bandage
  • Preparing food hygienically
  • Avoiding contact with infected people
  • Keeping the home environment clean and healthy
  • Practicing safe sex
  • Being vaccinated against all relevant vaccine-preventable diseases
  • Ensuring access to safe water and sanitation
  • Not sharing antibiotics with other people


From the foregoing discussion, it goes without saying that antibiotic resistance poses the greatest threat to global health. Everyone has a role to play in preventing the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance, including doctors, patients, nurses, pharmacists, veterinarians, farmers, and policymakers.

Most importantly, improving prescription habits of doctors, stopping the sale of antibiotics without prescriptions, and educating patients about the dangers of misusing antibiotics will go a long way towards fighting antibiotic resistance and ensuring that these life-saving drugs remain available for future generations.

References :
  1. World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2019 - (https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-antibiotic-awareness-week/world-antibiotic-awareness-week-2019/landing)
  2. Health Days 2019: World Antibiotic Awareness Week - (https://www.moh.gov.sa/en/HealthAwareness/healthDay/2019/Pages/HealthDay-2019-11-13-19.aspx)
  3. World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2019: The Future of Antibiotics Depends on All of Us - (https://www.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=15537:world-antibiotic-awareness-week-2019&Itemid=42091&lang=en)
  4. Ten Important Moments in the History of Antibiotic Discovery - (https://correctiv.org/en/latest-stories/super-bugs/2017/07/03/ten-important-moments-in-the-history-of-antibiotic-discovery)

Source: Medindia

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