One of the most significant health challenges of the modern world is the abuse or misuse of antibiotics. Indiscriminate use of these drugs leads to the development of resistance among the bacteria they are supposed to be killed.
Based on data from WHO, about seven hundred thousand people die each year from drug resistant cases, which is mostly related to antibiotics.
Antibiotic resistance is also identified as a major cause of increasing severity of illness, prolonging the recovery time, long hospitalisation days, frequent doctor visits and overall, a huge financial burden.
WHO and UN already declared antibiotic resistance as a major problem and formed IAGC (UN Ad hoc Interagency Coordinating Group on Antimicrobial Resistance) to combat the problem.
IAGC report says that if the current trend continues, antibiotic resistance could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050 and could force about 24 million people into extreme poverty.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to one-third to one-half of antibiotic use in humans is unnecessary or inappropriate.
A study led by Papreen Nahar from the Department of Global Health and Infection of University of Sussex showed that 63 per cent of antibiotic prescriptions come from unqualified health care providers.
Even in outdoor clinics, 44 per cent patients are getting antibiotics, often without proper diagnosis. Another study by the Department of Pharmacy of Jahangirnagar University found the same issues and revealed that typhoid patients are not responding to several antibiotics.
It is very important for the general people to be cautious when using antibiotics. It must only be used when prescribed by the registered physicians, and not taken on advice of friends, relatives or salespeople at the pharmacy.
It is crucial that we do not use antibiotics that have been stored for a long time and check the expiry date and proper storage conditions before use.
Another important thing is to finish the full course of antibiotics. It is a common practice to stop using the medication when we feel better. This is inadvisable, and we must complete the prescription. If there are side effects or other reasons why we cannot, physicians must be consulted before taking any steps.
Last but not the least, one should never share his/her antibiotics with anyone even if it is the same.
We have to remember that antibiotics are not magic pills. They only act against certain bacterial infections and have little or no effect on viral ones. Common colds, for example, do not respond to antibiotics. Even some bacterial infections will get better with time and do not need antibiotics.
One case in point is fever. We often opt to take antibiotics when we are having a high temperature. However, physicians generally suggest waiting 5-7 days before prescribing antibiotics.
In Bangladesh, physicians are sometimes pressured to write antibiotics not only by pharmaceutical companies, but also by patients themselves in the false idea that it will make them better instantly.
This should be avoided. We also need to take steps to limit infection risks, so we do not need antibiotics. It can be done by practicing good hygiene, regular hand washing, taking recommended vaccines, eating healthy foods and following a healthy lifestyle.
Imtiaz Ahmed completed his MBBS from Dhaka Medical College.