No longer a cure-all


Bacteria are increasingly growing resistant to antibiotics, posing a major public health risk

Sniffles, parched throat, mild headache... could be indications that you are in for a cold or flu. Do you know that popping some antibiotics recommended by your friendly neighbourhood pharmacist will not cure your cold/flu?

Because cold or flu is caused by a virus, while antibiotics can only cure infections caused by bacteria. (You might need antibiotics only if your flu gets worse and results in a secondary bacterial infection like bronchitis or pneumonia.)

In fact, by popping antibiotics for infections which are not bacterial, you are just aiding the growth of antibiotic resistance, a major public health problem currently faced by modern medicine. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria changes its response to the drugs which are used to treat infections caused by it. This makes the drugs less effective against bacteria and your disease becomes difficult to treat.

One should understand that it is the bacteria which become resistant to antibiotics, not the body. Through indiscriminate antibiotics use, you are helping create drug-resistant bacteria, which then cause difficult-to-treat infections in others.

Antibiotic resistance is usually a natural process which occurs over time but antibiotic abuse and irrational prescriptions have reached a level that today, common infections like urinary tract infections or pneumonia are no longer treated easily and have the potential to become life-threatening infections.

According to the Centres for Disease Control (CDC), more than two-thirds of the 150 million antibiotic prescriptions written each year for patients outside of hospitals in the US are unnecessary.

In Kerala, one in every three medical prescriptions contain an antibiotic, even though there have been no studies to assess the rationality of prescriptions, says K.G. Ravikumar, a former professor of Clinical Pharmacy

The first ever World Antibiotic Awareness Week was observed from November 16-22 this year by the World Health Organisation, which also kicked off a global campaign to increase public awareness on antibiotic resistance. The campaign comes on the heels of a 12-nation survey by WHO, which revealed the widespread misconceptions about antibiotic resistance among public. “Antibiotic resistance has been increasing in our settings because we do not have or follow standard treatment protocols. Antibiotic policy remains only on paper and doctors prefer to use the latest generation antibiotics rather than first-line drugs,” Dr. Ravikumar says.

WHO points out that no new classes of antibiotics are on the horizon — the last one appeared 25 years ago. Unless the public and health professionals make an effort to reduce indiscriminate use of antibiotics, modern medicine could lose the last defence against dangerous bacteria.

(Reporting by C.Maya)

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 8:20:52 AM |

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