Tackling antibiotics resistance
Clinical Scenario: A 36-year-old female complains of continuous sore throat and cold. She states that such symptoms, in the past, usually signaled tonsillitis and so she had purchased at the pharmacy a certain antibiotic that would usually provide her relief. This time around however, the usual antibiotics hasn’t worked. It’s been more than a week and Female X seems to be getting worse.
Female X is a culprit of self-medication. She diagnosed herself as having tonsillitis without visiting a doctor or having any diagnostic tests to confirm her symptoms. She also proceeded to buy antibiotics to treat herself. Habits like this is what has led to the widespread growth of antibiotic resistance which the World Health Organization has tagged as a Global health issue.
Antibiotics are powerful medications that have been used to prevent and fight bacterial infections and it has successfully treated many ailments, and saved many lives since the discovery of Penicillin in 1928. Along with vaccination, antibiotics has successfully helped in the eradication of life threatening diseases such as smallpox, and has greatly reduced the prevalence of diseases like tuberculosis etc. Antibiotics are extremely effective and have been termed ‘a miracle in a bottle.’ Indeed, they are! Due to its effectiveness, more and more people resort to the use of antibiotics to treat different illnesses.
This widespread use has also caused for a lot of people to misuse the drug, especially here in Nigeria where we have easy access to it. Anyone can walk into a pharmacy in Nigeria and pick up an antibiotic of choice, even without a doctor’s prescription. Majority of Nigerians have mastered the act of self-diagnosis, self-prescription and self-medication with antibiotics. This has led to an overuse and misuse of antibiotics which is a major factor in the growing epidemic of antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotic resistance is the ability of the bacteria to resist the effects of an antibiotic. In other words, antibiotics that were previously used to treat some certain bacterial infections cease to be effective.
Bacteria are very smart organisms and when you continually misuse antibiotics, these bacteria get used to them, they understand how these antibiotics work and then change in some way which reduces the effectiveness of these antibiotics to treat infections. Many people in the developed countries understand this, that is why in the United States, one cannot easily buy antibiotics over the counter; they are regulated drugs that can only be gotten with a prescription from the doctor. But even with these tight regulations, it is still recorded that each year in the US, more than 2 million people become infected with bacteria that have become resistant to bacteria and in a lot of these cases, these people die as a result of this antibiotic resistance, hence it is a very serious issue.
There is a need for more awareness regarding antibiotic resistance because it has the ability to become very fatal very quickly if more people are not properly educated on the importance of using antibiotics only when needed. WHO has designated November 13 – 19th as World Antibiotic Awareness week. This aims to educate the public and help raise awareness on what we need to be doing to prevent and fight this antibiotic resistance.
As individuals, we must use antibiotics only when prescribed by a doctor. We should never walk into a pharmacy and just buy antibiotics whenever we feel the need to. It is important to visit the doctor when you feel ill so that they could run the necessary tests to confirm if you need antibiotics. If after the tests are done, you don’t need antibiotics, please do not demand for them. It’s best to minimize antibiotic use as much as possible. Also, if antibiotics are prescribed by your doctor, make sure to follow the directions and use the proper dosage for the full length of time as directed by the doctor. Never share your antibiotics with friends or family. In the long run, you are creating more harm than good. Then, try as much as possible to practice proper hygiene such as hand washing, minimizing contact with sick people, practice safe sex, and ensuring vaccinations are up to date. All these will help minimize your chances of getting an infection, and therefore reduce the need for the use of antibiotics.
Physicians must properly educate the patient about how to take antibiotics properly, and also the risks of not doing so. Also, antibiotics must be prescribed only when absolutely necessary and only after diagnostic tests have confirmed a bacterial infection. Likewise, the policymakers have to strengthen the laws that control access to medications such as antibiotics. They should not be easily accessible, and obtainable only with a doctor’s prescription.
Disclaimer: The medical information provided on here by Dr. Nini Iyizoba is provided as an information resource only. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment
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