Judicious use of antibiotics is need of the hour

The indiscriminate use of antibiotics is posing a threat to global healthcare though the public is still unaware of its implications, says the World Health Organisation (WHO), which is marking its maiden ‘World Antibiotic Awareness Week’ from November 16 to 22.

According a multi-nation study by WHO, 76 per cent of respondents of 1,023 online interviews in India say they have taken an antibiotic in the past six months; 90 per cent say they were prescribed by a doctor or nurse.

“The awareness of antibiotics being overused or misused is very low in our country,” K. Saravanan of ABC Hospital, told The Hindu , who cited the unmonitored over-the-counter (OTC) sale of antibiotics and self-medication by patients as among the chief reasons for this.

Doctors, who do not fully investigate a health problem and prescribe antibiotics because they presume the patient to have a bacterial infection, are also to blame.

“Even though antibiotics are effective only against bacterial infections, most patients insist upon them to treat viral outbreaks of cold and cough,” he added.

Antibiotic resistance, where bacteria undergo genetic mutation and become resistant to the antibiotics used to treat the infections they cause, is most common in the therapies for respiratory and gastro-intestinal diseases, said Dr. Saravanan.

“If you have a respiratory infection, a prescription of Paracetamol and five days of complete rest would cure the problem. But nowadays, nobody is ready to stop work or miss out on their social commitments.

They demand antibiotics from their doctors or simply buy it themselves from the pharmacy, using an old prescription,” he said.

“The danger of antibiotics resistance is that in the hospital or community, strains of bacteria that are resistant to the routine antibiotics circulate,” said Kingsley Jebakumar, paediatrician.

“When children get infected with these bacteria, it is more difficult to treat and the child’s health deteriorates rapidly,” Dr. Kingsley added.

Antibiotic resistance is making it harder to treat infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning and gonorrhoea.

As just one example, India has the highest rates of resistance to nearly every drug available to treat Escherichia coli (E.coli), that can cause food poisoning symptoms like abdominal cramps and diarrhoea.

Indiscriminate use of the powerful medicines, not just in healthcare, but also in agriculture and livestock breeding, will push humanity back to the pre-antibiotic era, because “bugs are cleverer than us,” said N. Chadiesh, consultant microbiologist, Apollo Hospital, Tiruchi.

“In any medical intervention, the initial dosage of antibiotics will be high, but after the clinicians start the treatment, based on the microbiology report, this level has to be systematically brought down, as quickly as possible,” he said. “One reason why resistance is increasing is because many hospitals continue with the higher grade antibiotics for more than a week.”

Dr. Chadiesh said that it was necessary for super-speciality hospitals to have an infection control team to formulate their own antibiotic policy.

“We should ensure that we closely audit the use of antibiotics in the hospitals, so that these medicines can be administered judiciously,” he said.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 11:33:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/judicious-use-of-antibiotics-is-need-of-the-hour/article7905088.ece

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