Mis­un­der­stand­ing of an­tibi­otics fu­els su­per­bug threat, WHO says

‘Drug re­sis­tance could end mod­ern medicine as we know it’

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

LON­DON: Peo­ple across the world are alarm­ingly con­fused about the role of an­tibi­otics and the right way to take them, and this ig­no­rance is fu­elling the rise of drug-re­sis­tant su­per­bugs, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion said yes­ter­day. “The rise of an­tibi­otic re­sis­tance is a global health cri­sis,” WHO Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral Mar­garet Chan told re­porters in a tele­brief­ing from the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s Geneva head­quar­ters. She said the prob­lem was “reach­ing dan­ger­ously high lev­els” in all parts of the world and could lead to “the end of mod­ern medicine as we know it”.

An­tibi­otic re­sis­tance hap­pens when bac­te­ria mu­tate and adapt to be­come in­vul­ner­a­ble to the an­tibi­otics used to treat the in­fec­tions they cause. Over-use and mis­use of an­tibi­otics ex­ac­er­bates the de­vel­op­ment of drug-re­sis­tant bac­te­ria, of­ten called su­per­bugs. Pub­lish­ing the re­sults of a sur­vey of pub­lic aware­ness, the United Na­tions health agency said 64 per­cent of those asked be­lieved wrongly that peni­cillin-based drugs and other an­tibi­otics can treat colds and flu, de­spite the fact such medicines have no im­pact on viruses. Around a third of peo­ple sur­veyed also wrongly be­lieved they should stop tak­ing an­tibi­otics when they feel bet­ter, rather than com­plet­ing the pre­scribed treat­ment course, the WHO said.

“The find­ings ... point to the ur­gent need to im­prove un­der­stand­ing around an­tibi­otic re­sis­tance,” said Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive for an­timi­cro­bial re­sis­tance. “One of the big­gest health chal­lenges of the 21st cen­tury will re­quire global be­hav­ior change by in­di­vid­u­als and so­ci­eties.” Su­per­bug in­fec­tions, in­clud­ing multi-dru­gre­sis­tant ty­phoid, tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and gon­or­rhoea, al­ready kill hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple a year, and for now the trend is still grow­ing.

Wor­ry­ing mis­con­cep­tions

Fukuda de­scribed it as a “race against the pathogens”, adding that if ev­ery­one steps into ac­tion now, it will prob­a­bly take five to 10 years to turn the sit­u­a­tion around. The WHO sur­veyed 10,000 peo­ple across 12 coun­tries-Bar­ba­dos, China, Egypt, In­dia, In­done­sia, Mex­ico, Nige­ria, Rus­sia, Ser­bia, South Africa, Su­dan and Viet­nam-and found many wor­ry­ing mis­con­cep­tions. Three-quar­ters of re­spon­dents think an­tibi­otic re­sis­tance means the body is re­sis­tant to the drugs, for ex­am­ple, whereas in fact it is the bac­te­ria them­selves that be­come re­sis­tant to an­tibi­otics, and their spread causes hard-to-treat in­fec­tions. Some 66 per­cent be­lieve in­di­vid­u­als are not at risk of a drug-re­sis­tant in­fec­tion if they per­son­ally take their an­tibi­otics as pre­scribed. And nearly half of those sur­veyed think drug re­sis­tance is only a prob­lem in peo­ple who take an­tibi­otics of­ten. In fact, any­one, any­where, of any age, can get a su­per­bug in­fec­tion. Chan urged doc­tors to dis­suade pa­tients from de­mand­ing an­tibi­otics for in­fec­tions they can’t treat, and per­suade them to use the drugs strictly ac­cord­ing to their prescription. “Doc­tors need to treat an­tibi­otics as a pre­cious com­mod­ity,” she said.

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