The first antibiotic was discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming. It was named as penicillin. Since then, several antibiotics have been discovered and they all have been serving as the cornerstone of modern medicine. However, microbes have become resistant to the drugs due to the continuous overuse and misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals, leading to the emergence and rapid spread of antibiotic/antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
World Antibiotic Awareness Week (WAAW), which is observed every year in November, aims to highlight the best practices among the public, health workers and policy makers to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance. This year, the event is celebrated from 18-24 November.
WHAT IS ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE?
Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of a microbe to resist the effects of those medicines that once could successfully kill or damage the microbes. It occurs when microbes evolve in such a way that they become able to reduce or even eliminate the effectiveness of drugs, employed to cure or prevent infections. The term antibiotic resistance can be defined as a subset of antimicrobial resistance that applies only to bacteria rather than microbes.
WHY ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE IS A MATTER OF CONCERN
With the growing use of antibiotics, antibiotic resistance has spread all across the globe making certain diseases such as pneumonia and meningitis difficult to treat. Doctors have to prescribe stronger drugs for a longer period due to the antimicrobial resistance. This affects the health of the patients and it becomes much difficult to manage the risk of infection in patients suffering from chronic diseases.
Studies show that antimicrobial resistance is directly proportional to the use of antibiotics. Recent statistics estimate that by 2050, nearly 10 million deaths will be caused due to antimicrobial resistance. In India alone, around 12.9 billion units of antibiotics were consumed in the year 2010, which was the highest among all the countries surveyed. Considering this data, it is important to take every necessary step to stop the further advancement of antibiotic resistance.
HOW TO PREVENT OR CONTROL THE SPREAD OF ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE
While the government is implementing its policies, below are a few measures that can be adopted at an individual level to fight AMR:
- Avoid antibiotics when not required – always ask your doctor if antibiotics will really help. For illnesses such as bronchitis, common cold, sinus infections and other infections caused by viruses, antibiotics won’t work.
- Always finish the entire course of prescribed antibiotics even if you start feeling better. Stopping the course before the infection is completely wiped out encourages the bacteria to become drug-resistant.
- Get vaccinated – immunisations can guard you against some diseases caused by bacteria. Getting vaccination against such diseases means less or no use of antibiotics.
- Take care of hygiene – ensure that you wash your hands before and after every meal so as to avoid the occurrence of infections.
- Since antibiotic-resistant bacteria are commonly found in hospitals, caregivers must learn to take care of their hygiene.