The World Health Organisation says indiscriminate use of antibiotics is increasing the resistance of many diseases to the antibiotics which used to treat them.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti in a message to mark the World Antibiotic Awareness Week” which began on 14th of November and runs through to 20th, said Antibiotic resistance is now a major global health concern : “due to over-prescribing and dispensing of antibiotics by healthcare practitioners, misuse of antibiotics by patients overuse and misuse in farming, lack of new antibiotics being developed, poor infection control, and lack of proper sanitation and sewage disposal. ”
Dr Moeti said though Africa had limited data on the scope of the antibiotic resistance, but cites the increasing difficulty in treating Tuberculosis as evidence of increasing incidence of use and abuse of antibiotics.
‘’It is becoming increasingly difficult to treat due to the emergence of Multi-Drug Resistant (MDR) and Extensively Drug Resistant (XDR). XDR-TB is resistant to first option treatments, and to three or more of the six classes of second line drugs reserved for when initial treatment fails’’
He said though antibiotics have saved millions of lives since the invention of penicillin in 1928, he said failure to regulate its use means “there will be more untreatable common infections and deaths from pathogens which were previously treatable, reversing the gains made in advanced medical treatments. ‘’
WHO recommends different levels of compliance:
- Patients should only use antibiotics when prescribed by a certified healthcare professional and never demand them if they are unnecessary. It is important to complete the full course of treatment and never share antibiotics.
- Healthcare practitioners should always follow infection control procedures. They should only prescribe and dispense antibiotics when they are truly needed, and inform patients on the appropriate use of antibiotics, as well as on how to prevent getting common infections. The pharmaceutical industry should invest in research and development of new antibiotics.
- Farmers and food producers can help by only giving antibiotics to animals (food-producing and companion animals) to control or treat infectious diseases, and phase out the routine use of antibiotics to promote growth. In so doing, humans will be less vulnerable to acquiring antibiotic resistant organisms through the consumption of animal products.
WHO further says it is prioritizing antimicrobial resistance work through a “Regional emergency and security strategy, helping countries to develop and implement national action plans, as well as supporting countries to build of strong health systems.’’
It also seeks strong individual and community awareness of the threat of antibiotic resistance which it says is vital to stop Antibiotic resistance from becoming uncontrollable.