The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised the alarm about the level of resistance to antibiotics by bacteria and other disease causing-organisms.
According to the global health body, some common practices have contributed to bacteria being increasingly resistant to medication used to fight diseases.
The WHO defines antimicrobial resistance as “when microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change in ways that render the medications used to cure the infections they cause ineffective.”
“When the microorganisms become resistant to most antimicrobials they are often referred to as ‘superbugs’. This is a major concern because a resistant infection may kill, can spread to others, and imposes huge costs to individuals and society.”
It describes drug resistance as one of ‘the biggest threats’ to global health in contemporary times which leaves anyone living anywhere in the world at risk.
In a blogpost, Marc Sprenger, director of the WHO’s secretariat for antimicrobial resistance said while resistance is a natural occurrence, the worry is about the speed at which it is happening.
“Many such infections are rapidly becoming resistant to life-saving drugs. This development can be attributed, to some extent, to biology. It is inevitable that each drug will lose its ability to kill disease-causing bacteria over time.
That is because bacteria, through natural selection and genetic adaptation, become resistant to antibiotics.
“However, we are speeding up the process dramatically by using antibiotics too much and often in the wrong contexts. We need to slow down the development and spread of resistance so that the antibiotics we have continue to work for as long as possible. We also urgently need to devote more resources to the research and development of new antibiotics…Today, it is estimated that in half of all cases, antibiotics are prescribed for conditions caused by viruses, where they do no good.”
Some common diseases such as gonorrhoea, tuberculosis and pneumonia, have become very hard to fight because the well known remedies are no longer working.
“Antibiotic resistance leads to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased mortality”; the WHO warns.
What are some of the common causes of drug resistance?
1. Not finishing your medication
By not exhausting your medication, you increase microorganisms chances at growing stronger at your pills. Continue your medication even if you are feeling a lot better.
2. Lack of hygiene and poor sanitation
Simply activity such as washing of hands before handling drugs also contributes to drug resistance.
3. Overuse of antibiotics in livestock and fish farming
Antibiotics used in animal production should be used under controlled veterinary circumstances. Overuse of antibiotics spread resistance through the food chain to humans.
4. Over prescription by doctors
Doctors should only prescribe antibiotics only when necessary and when tests have been carried out to identify the specific antibiotic the patient should have.
5. Poor infection control in hospitals and clinics
Health centres should keep instruments clean and put in other measures to ensure that infections are not being spread within their facilities.
6. Lack of new antibiotics
The pharmaceutical industry has been tasked to develop improved antibiotics ‘faster and more aggressively.’