A pile of different coloured pills and tablets - denoting antibiotic resistance when the medicines are abused and used incorrectly.
10/07/2019 By AskAwayHealth

Why Antibiotic Resistance Matters To You

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Writer Fisayomi Aturamu considers how we should really be looking at antibiotic resistance in the article below

Quite interestingly, some women use antibiotics like Ampiclox as contraception. Ampiclox is to Bacteria what Contraceptives are to Sperm. This also mean sperm is not a bacteria. In this article, we explain what antibiotics are and the safest ways to administer them. Read on.

What are Antibiotics?

Antibiotics are a group of medicines containing substances that kill bacteria or prevent their growth and multiplication.[1]

They are used to treat a variety of infections because of this antibacterial action. Antibiotics work through different means.[2]

Antibiotics cannot cure viral infections such as the common cold.

How We Viewed Antibiotics

Growing up, almost every household I visited had a mini-dispensary. Ours was by a corner in the dining room.

It was filled with various over-the-counter medications like Paracetamol, Analgin, etc. and prescription drugs collected from several members of the family who failed to complete their dosage.

Anytime I or my brother had a cold, fever, headache, stomach ache, or felt tired, my mom would play doctor and give us something from her stash.

Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic Resistance

However, later on, getting into university, I discovered that this practice is wrong and dangerous.

I am currently a medical student at the University of Lagos. I learned about the effects of antibiotic abuse and non-compliance in my third year during my microbiology classes.

Ever since I have been trying to enlighten people about antibiotic resistance resulting from the abuse of medication and failure to take them properly (‘non-compliance).

Some other causes of antibiotic resistance include poor drug formulations (otherwise called “fake drugs”) and over-prescription of antibiotics by healthcare professionals.

Antibiotic Resistance

Misconceptions Of Antibiotics

In my second year, I moved into the university hostel where I made a lot of new friends.

Sometimes after school, we would all sit in the common room to gist.

It was on one of such occasions that I found out that some girls used Ampiclox as emergency contraception.

This was really shocking to me because I could not understand the rationale for this. Sperm is not bacteria so using an antibiotic would not prevent pregnancy.

I also discovered that some people regard antibiotics as some form of ‘blood purifier’ and would regularly take antibiotics purchased from neighbourhood pharmacies, all in a bid to ‘flush their system’.

And when antibiotics are prescribed by a doctor e.g. for a urinary tract infection, they hardly comply with the dose and complete the advised course because they believe that antibiotics ‘dry up the blood’.

Therefore, they abandon their medication as soon as they start to feel better.

Tony, a 3rd-year law student narrated how he and a friend were on a bus to Ikorodu(somewhere in southwest Nigeria) sometime back with a local drug hawker on board.

Apparently, the hawker mentioned a lot of symptoms like body pains, headaches, blurry vision, etc. and attributed the cause of all these problems to ‘Staphylococcus aureus’ which he had called ‘sta-locus erus’.

A lot of the passengers patronized him that day.

Sadly, the discussion with my friends at the hostel that day reflects our society’s attitude towards the use of antibiotics.

Antibiotic Resistance

What is Antibiotic Resistance?

This is what happens when bacteria become immune to the effects of an antibiotic to which they were once susceptible.[3]   

This means that the antibiotic is no longer able to destroy a germ that it was previously able to.

The World Health Organisation regards antibiotic resistance as one of the three major public health problems of the 21st century.[4]

Fortunately, some of the causes of antibiotic resistance can be prevented.

Antibiotic Resistance

What Can You Do to Prevent Antibiotic Resistance?

  • Never use an antibiotic without a doctor’s prescription. Some antibiotics are specific for certain infections.
  • Do not take more than the prescribed dosage of the medicine. Take the right amount, at the right time, and for the prescribed duration.
  • Do not keep unfinished used antibiotics for later use. Do not share your prescribed medications with friends or family. Take them to the hospital instead to get the right diagnosis and treatment.[2]
  • Stop self-medication and spread the word amongst family and friends.
  • Preach the ‘gospel’, which is that ‘Antibiotic use without a prescription is drug abuse and can cause antibiotic resistance.
  • We also need to engage in hygienic practices such as proper washing of foods like fruits and vegetables, and frequent hand washing to reduce the spread of bacteria.
  • Also, ensure that you get appropriate vaccination and avoid unprotected sex.  

Wider Measures To Prevent Antibiotic Resistance

• Strengthen regulatory enforcement to prevent substandard antibiotic formulation (fake drugs) by manufacturers, importers and distributors

• Strengthen regulatory enforcement to prevent the activities of quacks and unauthorized vendors of antibiotics and other prescription medications

•Educate the general public on the dangers of antibiotics misuse

• Strengthen antibiotics stewardship and pharmacovigilance on the part of doctors, pharmacists, nurses and other healthcare practitioners

antibiotic resistance

Consequences of Antibiotic Resistance

  • Infections become more difficult to cure and therefore, last longer and may eventually result in serious complications or death. [2]
  • Certain antibiotics that were once effective against certain infections like gonorrhea and syphilis are no longer so. This causes these infections to persist and occur more widely.
  • Then as conditions become harder to treat, the result will be increased hospital bills and deaths.[5]
  • Medical and surgical procedures that require antibiotics would carry higher risks of failure because infections would set into exposed tissue and the antibiotics cannot work.⁶

Conclusion

While antibiotic resistance is already a big problem in our society, we all have a role to play in curbing this threat to global health.

In developing countries like Nigeria, antibiotic resistance is of even greater significance with causes that are both complicated and multifactorial.⁷

The good news is that it is never too late to make a change.  

More Reading:

References:

  1. NHS, 2016. Antibiotics.
  2. NPS MedicineaWise, 2017. Antibiotics, explained.
  3. MedicineNet Newsletter, 2019. Antibiotics Resistance (Drug Resistance, Antimicrobial Resistance).   
  4. WHO, 2014. Antimicrobial resistance: global report on surveillance 2014.
  5. WHO, 2018. Antibiotic Resistance.
  6. European Center for Disease Prevention and Control
  7. The threat of antimicrobial resistance in developing countries: causes and control strategies

Edited by AskAwayHealth Team

Disclaimer


All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner or reach us directly through info@askawayhealth.org

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