Are we doomed to recede back into a time when infections were the most significant health threat our species faced?
"70 per cent of the world’s bacteria have now developed a resistance to antibiotics. We have used - or are using - the drugs of last resort"
For 100 years, antibiotics have been solving the problem of infectious disease in a way that's really unique in human history. Today, almost all important bacterial infections throughout the world are becoming resistant to antibiotics.
Antibiotics are powerful drugs, but they are not the cure for all that ails you. They are not effective against viral infections like the common cold, most sore throats, and the flu. The misuse is putting patients at risk by fueling resistance.
In hospital settings, more than half of hospitalized patients receive antibiotics, but these prescriptions may often be inappropriate — for example, giving patients the wrong medicine or leaving them on a drug for too long. Statistics show that, of antibiotics prescribed in 68% of acute respiratory tract visits – 80% are unnecessary. Children are of particular concern because they have the highest rates of antibiotic use. Parent pressure also makes a difference. For pediatric care, a study showed that doctors prescribe antibiotics 62% of the time if they perceive parents expect them and 7% of the time if they feel parents do not expect them.
Antibiotic resistance has been called one of the world's most pressing public health problems. The irrational and overuse of antibiotics result not only in the emergence of resistant bacterial strains but adverse reactions and economical burden on national health system .
This irrational use arises from the economical factors, health policies concerning medical insurance, lack of physicians’ concerns about long term resistance and effect versus treating current symptoms, pharmaceutical marketing and the sale of antibiotics without prescriptions.
We have to protect patients by protecting antibiotics
The drugs we have today are endangered, and any new drugs we get could be lost just as quickly if we don't improve the way we prescribe and use them. We have to protect them before our medicine chests run empty.
It is true that antibiotic resistance is not primarily the undesirable consequence of antibiotic abuse or misuse but decreasing inappropriate antibiotic use is the best way to control resistance.
When antibiotics fail to work, the consequences are longer-lasting illnesses, more doctor visits or extended hospital stays, and the need for more expensive and toxic medications. Some resistant infections can even cause death.
The level of knowledge about the use, effectiveness, resistance and safety of antibiotics is wanting. We need to address the following:
1. Knowledge regarding the indications for antibiotic use: The purpose of using antibiotic (is it for bacterial, viral or parasitic infection, common cold or nasal congestion, stomachache and combination of the above?).
2. Resistance due to misuse: Causes of antibiotic resistance (unnecessary use, not completing the course, no physician’s prescription (e.g. self-medication; over-the-counter OTC), using antibiotic with other drugs).
3. Safety: Antibiotic side effects such as allergies and the potential harm to children’s teeth.
4. Antibiotics’ prescription patterns: Obtaining antibiotic prescription (requesting prescription from one’s own physician or consulting other physician to obtain one, over the phone prescription and improper reasons of prescription).\
The continuation of antibiotic use for human diseases is at stake unless worldwide efforts are taken. Apart from tackling misuse and overuse of antibiotics, we can also address antibiotic resistance by developing new strategies to prevent resistance from spreading and, where it already exists, identify the strains we need to protect against, find new ways to treat resistance infections effectively in patients, and manage reservoirs of antibiotic strains in the environment.
What more can we do?
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