The World Health Organisation (WHO) on 16 November 2015 launched the World Antibiotic Awareness Week with the theme Antibiotics: handle with care.
The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness and encourage best practices among the public, policymakers, health and agriculture professionals to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance.
The campaign is part of the WHO’s recent efforts to fight against antibiotic resistance due to growing misuse. In May 2015, the Sixty-eighth World Health Assembly a global action plan to improve awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance through effective communication, education and training.
What are Antibiotics?
Antibiotics, also known as antibacterials, are types of medications that destroy or slow down the growth of bacteria in order to contain bacteria-caused illness. Though all bacteria are not harmful, few of them do cause such illnesses as syphilis, tuberculosis, salmonella, and some forms of meningitis.
How do Antibiotics work?
Usually, antibiotics work in two ways-either they kill the bacteria, like Penicillin, by interfering with the formation of the bacterium's cell wall or its cell contents or stops bacteria from multiplying.
Do Antibiotics are always good for health?
No, they are not. For example, researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine found that a rise in sugars in the gut following antibiotic treatment for Diarrhea allows harmful bacteria to get a foothold and cause infection. It is because of the primary reason that harmful bacteria thrive on sugar.
In rare cases, they do lead to the formation of kidney stones (due to sulphonamides), blood clotting (cephalosporins), sensitivity to sun (tetracyclines) and blood disorders, etc.
Are the above problems are related to Antibiotic resistance?
No, antibiotic resistance is related to different set of problems. While the above mentioned side effects are caused by antibiotics in general, irrespective of dosage, antibiotic resistance is developed due to their overuse or misuse due to ignorance.
As per a multi-country survey conducted by the WHO revealed that there is a widespread public misunderstanding about antibiotic resistance across the world. About, 76 percent of respondents think that antibiotic resistance happens when the body becomes resistant to antibiotics.
But in reality, bacteria—not humans or animals—become resistant to antibiotics and their spread causes hard-to-treat infections.
Further, the survey also revealed that about 44 percent people think antibiotic resistance is only a problem for people who take antibiotics regularly. In fact, anyone, of any age, in any country can get an antibiotic-resistant infection.
Where do Indians stand out?
In India too, the situation is no better than other parts of the world. About 75 percent of respondents think, incorrectly, that colds and flu can be treated with antibiotics; and only 58 percent know that they should stop taking antibiotics only when they finish the course as directed.
And, antibiotics usage is also high in the country. More than 76 percent of respondents report having taken antibiotics within the past 6 months.
Further, India has become known in the world for bad reasons, when a super bug was named after the capital city, New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase-1 (NDM-1) in 2010 when British doctors announced the isolation of an enzyme from a Swedish patient treated in India. It was found that, NDM-1 rendered the bacteria resistant to almost all antibiotics.
What is the way-out?
Antimicrobial resistance is facilitated by the inappropriate use of medicines, for example, when taking substandard doses or not finishing a prescribed course of treatment. And, Low-quality medicines, wrong prescriptions and poor infection prevention and control also encourage the development and spread of drug resistance.
Hence, we should realize the fact that antibiotics are a precious resource and should be preserved. They should be used to treat bacterial infections, only when prescribed by a certified health professional. Antibiotics should never be shared and the full course of treatment should be completed – not saved for the future.
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What: Launched by the WHO
When: 16 November 2015
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