Antibiotics: An ominous public health concern

This terrible scourge can be prevented by increasing awareness and having proper knowledge about taking medicine and its application. Learning about antibiotic resistance is indispensable. Say no to taking antibiotics without physicians’ advice.

The discovery of antibiotics in 1928 brought about a revolution in the field of medicine. But due to their extensive and widespread use and abuse, bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics. Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness against diseases caused by infectious microbes. As a result, many people and animals are dying due to medical complications.

Antimicrobial resistance, however, is a major global threat of increasing concern to human and animal health. It also has implications for food safety, food security, and the economic well-being of millions of farming households.

The World Health Organisation recently warned that growing antimicrobial resistance is as dangerous as the coronavirus pandemic, threatening to reverse a century of medical progress.

A recent article published in the National Library of Medicine reveals that 10 million people will die every year worldwide due to antimicrobial resistance by 2050 unless a global response to the problem is mounted.

There is undoubtedly a large clinical and public health burden associated with antimicrobial resistance, but it is challenging to quantify the associated accelerated morbidity and mortality.

Antibiotics are usually used to prevent bacterial attacks. Antibiotics also vary for different types of bacteria. If antibiotics are not used in the right amount or for a long enough time, the bacteria become stronger rather than being destroyed. Therefore, antibiotics do not have an effect on these bacteria. This condition is called antibiotic resistance.

Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of microorganisms to persist or grow in the presence of drugs designed to inhibit or kill them. These drugs, called antimicrobials, are used to treat infectious diseases caused by microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoan parasites.

When microorganisms become resistant to antimicrobials, standard treatments are often ineffective; in some cases, no drugs provide effective therapy. Consequently, medical treatments fail. This increases illness and mortality in humans, animals, and plants. For agriculture, this causes production losses, damages livelihoods, and jeopardises food security. Moreover, antimicrobial resistance can spread among hosts and the environment, and antimicrobial resistant microorganisms can contaminate the food chain.

Every time we use antimicrobials in people, animals or plants, germs have a chance to acquire the ability to tolerate the treatments by becoming resistant, making the drugs less effective over time.

Bacteria are unicellular, microscopic and microorganisms without a nucleus. It has about 15,000 species. Not all bacteria are harmful, and many bacteria, even those living in our guts, are extremely beneficial. However, the harmful side of bacteria often catches our attention.

We take antibiotics for every ailment, from mild headaches to severe fevers. In most cases, it works fine, but in one or two unique perspectives, some bacteria remain in the patient’s body that cannot be affected by antibiotics. Instead, they adopt strategies to fight off antibiotics, and the new bacteria created by them have the same qualities.

Medical experts say that antimicrobials encompass a broader range of products that act on microbes in general. Microbes encompass different types of organisms: bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa. Overuse of antibiotics causes bacteria to become antibiotic-resistant. Most people in Bangladesh take antibiotics for any illness; however, they can be extremely harmful to our bodies over time. New types of bacteria are emerging worldwide, but no new antibiotics are likely to be discovered in the next five to seven years. In such a situation, we might face another pandemic.

Physicians and scientists in Bangladesh have also noted this and have found antimicrobial resistance in many patients, even among those who did not take any antibiotics even three months before admission to the hospital.

Antimicrobial resistance is increasing at a rate several times higher than the rate at which new antibiotics are being developed. In the near future, even a slight sneezing-cough-fever may cause people’s deaths. It takes 15 years to create an antibiotic and one year to develop bacterial resistance.

At some point, it may well be seen that no medicine will be able to kill the germs. Antimicrobial resistance in children may not have a genetic or hereditary cause. However, if antibiotics are used in animals’ bodies when we eat meat or vegetables or in the production of vegetables, it creates resistance that affects human bodies.

We eat fish, chicken, beef, etc for protein, and antibiotics are used to save them. That is, people are risking their future for their protein.

An infected person or animal spreads antimicrobial-resistant bacteria inside their body by sneezing and coughing in the presence of others, and they also get the same incurable disease.

Buying and selling antibiotics without a physician’s prescription is currently the main cause of antibiotic resistance. The practice must stop. Packets of all antibiotic medicines should be recoloured and kept separate from other medicines so that people can easily distinguish them.

Patients should not take any dose of antibiotics without a physician’s advice and should complete the dose, if prescribed, and follow the rules. Antibiotics are, as physicians say, not required to treat the following four illnesses: minor fever, cold, cough, and diarrhoea. So doctors should refrain from giving antibiotics in these four conditions.

When antibiotics are used correctly, they significantly contribute to disease recovery and increased average life expectancy in humans and animals.

Antimicrobial resistance is a complex problem that requires a multispectral approach. A proper health approach brings together multiple sectors and stakeholders engaged in human, terrestrial and aquatic animal and plant health, food and feed production, and the environment to communicate and work together in the design and implementation of programmes, policies, legislation, and research to attain better public health outcomes.

This terrible scourge can be prevented by increasing awareness and having proper knowledge about taking medicine and its application. Learning about antibiotic resistance is indispensable. Say no to taking antibiotics without physicians’ advice.

Noushin Mouli Waresi is a development worker.

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