By Duncan Mlanjira
November 18-24 is World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW), set aside by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to increase awareness of global antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and to encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policy makers to avoid the further emergence and spread of drug-resistant infections.
The theme for 2020 is ‘Antimicrobials: handle with care’ and Malawian medical practitioner, Dr. Parth Patel says in order protect oneself and their family from antibiotic resistance, never share antibiotic with others and not to save them for later.
Maravi Express continues to share with you the exclusive interview we had with him:
What are bacteria?
“Bacteria and fungi are germs found inside and outside of our bodies. Most germs are harmless, and some can even be helpful to humans. But some can cause infections, like strep throat and urinary tract infections.”
What is an antibiotic?
“Antibiotics are critical tools for preventing and treating infections caused by specific bacteria in people, animals, and crops.”
What are ‘Superbugs’?
“Bacteria that have become resistant to multiple antibiotics typically used to treat them.”
What is antibiotic resistance?
“This is the natural process by which bacteria develop resistance over time to the medicines used to treat them. As resistance develops, these medicines become progressively less effective — and eventually they lose their effectiveness entirely.
“Antibiotic resistance is a consequence of the use of antibiotics, and misuse accelerates the emergence of resistance. Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant germs are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to treat and require extended hospital stays.
What does it mean by ‘inappropriate’ use of antibiotics?
“Inappropriate use is when antibiotics are taken when not needed, or taken for too short period of a time, at very low doses.
“Both overuse and underuse play a role: overuse such as through the over-prescribing of antibiotics and underuse due to lack of access, inadequate dosing, poor adherence.”
Is antibiotic resistance just about misuse of antibiotics?
“Misuse of antibiotics is certainly part of the problem, but antibiotic resistance is much broader than that. Because drug resistance is a natural process, all microorganisms could eventually develop resistance to the medicines used to treat them.
“Implementationofnationalpoliciesandtherationaluseofmedicines by providers and patients, can help considerably in slowing down the development and spread of resistance.
“Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 30% of the times antibiotic courses are prescribed for infections, they are not required, like for colds and the flu each year.
“Everyone has a role to play in improving antibiotic use. Appropriate antibiotic use helps fight antibiotic resistance and ensures these lifesaving drugs will be available for future generations.
How can I protect myself and my family from antibiotic resistance?
“Protect yourself and your family from antibiotic resistance by cleaning hands; covering coughs; staying home when sick, and getting recommended vaccines.
“Taking antibiotics only when they are needed is an important way you can protect yourself and your family from antibiotic resistance. Talk to your doctor about the best treatment if you are sick.
“Never pressure your doctor to prescribe an antibiotic. When antibiotics aren’t needed, they won’t help you and their side effects could still cause harm.
“Ask your doctor or pharmacist about steps you can take to feel better when an antibiotic isn’t needed.
“If your doctor decides an antibiotic is the best treatment when you are sick, take them exactly as your doctor tells you. Do not share your antibiotic with others or save them for later.
Also, do not take antibiotics prescribed for someone else. Talk with your doctor and pharmacist if you have any questions about your antibiotics.
“Even if you are feeling better and symptoms have improved, that does not always mean the infection is completely gone. If you stop taking the antibiotic prescription too soon, all of the bacteria causing the infection might not be killed. You might become sick again, and the remaining bacteria might become resistant to the antibiotic you’ve taken.”
Do antibiotics help with the common cold or flu?
“No! Antibiotics only work for bacterial infections. The common cold and flu are caused by viruses, so antibiotics will not work.
“Antibiotics do not work for some common respiratory infections, including most cases of bronchitis, many sinus infections, and some ear infections.”
Should I ever take an antibiotic again?
“Yes. Antibiotics are life saving tooks and are an important part of medicine. When prescribed and taken appropriately, they are vital in treating bacterial infections.”
How do vaccines help prevent antibiotic resistance?
“Many routine vaccines prevent bacterial infections. If a person does not get infected in the first place, there is no need to treat with antibiotics.”
Does hand sanitizer cause antibiotic resistance?
“Hand sanitizer does not create antibiotic-resistant infections or contribute to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
“The active ingredient in most hand sanitizers is ethyl alcohol (not antibiotics), which acts in a different manner than antibiotics.
“When hands are visibly soiled, it is best to wash them with soap and water instead of using hand sanitizer, since it does not work as well when hands are dirty with particles (e.g. dirt).”
Why should I care about antibiotic resistance?
“Antibiotic resistant can affect any person at any stage of life. People receiving health care or those with weakened immune systems are often at higher risk for getting an infection.
“Antibiotic resistance jeopardizes advancements in modern health care that we have come to rely on, such as joint replacements, organ transplants, and cancer therapy.
“These procedures have a significant risk of infection, and patients won’t be able to receive them if effective antibiotics are not available.
“Aside from healthcare, antibiotic resistance also impacts veterinary and agriculture industries.”
To be continued…