Antibiotic resistance has become a global threat, so much so that the UN General Assembly took it up for consideration in September 2016. This is the fourth health issue ever to be considered by the United Nations as a global threat after HIV, non-communicable diseases and the Ebola virus. It is an imminent problem of which the world needs to take cognizance because:
– according to a high level report released in 2014, it is estimated to claim 10 million lives a year by 2050
– at least 2 million people get infected by bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 people die due to these infections, each year in the United States alone.
Understanding antibiotic resistance
Antibiotics are medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change to become resistant to such antibiotics. No amount or type of medicines work on antibiotic-resistant bacteria or superbugs.
Essentially, this translate into rendering treatment of what were earlier common infections like TB, blood poisoning, pneumonia, and the likes increasingly harder and sometimes even impossible. This condition leads to prolonged hospital stays, skyrocketing medical bills and in severe cases, even death.
It is important to understand antibiotic resistance as it is escalating to dangerous proportions with new resistance mechanisms emerging and spreading across the globe making treatment processes complicated and at times, ineffective. And without proper direction, we would just be driving headlong into an era where the tiniest of injuries and infections would have the power to claim lives.
Putting an end to antibiotic resistance
According to a CDC report, one in every three outpatient antibiotic prescriptions is unnecessary. This means that at least 30 percent such prescriptions can be easily avoided. And yet these medicines are prescribed, bought and ingested.
Antibiotics tend to become lesser and lesser effective with each use. Working towards preventing antibiotic resistance from spreading, CDC has launched the Hospital Antibiotic Stewardship Programs which provides toolkits and guidelines to health care providers with the aim to improve the use of antibiotics.
On the patients’ part, it is essential to be aware of the antibiotics that we are taking and stop the over and unnecessary use of these. It is also time for us to join hands with health care providers and put to an end to the misuse, overuse and abuse of antibiotics. However, it is us, the consumers who have to question if the antibiotic is really necessary before popping them.
What also needs to happen hand-in-hand is a change in behavior of the health care providers. They must ensure that a prescription for antibiotics is given only when it is really warranted. Otherwise, what we would eventually end up doing is push our race towards that very dark and uncertain post-antibiotic era which we are fighting so hard to resist.
Recovery road map
The global Ebola outbreak was lesson enough that there are really no barriers and that every superbug is just a plane ride away to your town. Only when each one us – every consumer, patient and health care provider joins in the fight against superbugs will the war be won.
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