Antibiotic resistance a cause for concern
In the UK, we are leaving behind the
winter months and looking forward to a
much more pleasant spring. Lower temperatures
and wet weather during winter typically
brings with it an increased number of
people suffering from colds and influenza.
I recently read an article about the global
issue of antibiotic over-reliance and resistance,
and was surprised to learn that many
patients still turn to antibiotics for colds
and influenza despite them being ineffective
against viral infections. Antibiotics revolutionised modern medicine but
growing numbers of healthcare experts,
including the World Health Organisation
(WHO), are concerned about their diminishing
effectiveness for treating bacterial
There are various groups of antibiotics
such as penicillin, tetracyclines, macrolides,
cephalosporins and aminoglycosides,
and each one is only effective against certain
types of bacterial infections. Increasingly,
in cases where antibiotics would normally
be prescribed, they simply donít work
anymore because many bacterial infections
are becoming resistant to treatment.
One of the reasons attributed to a rise in
resistance is that there has been an increase
in the prescribing of antibiotics even if they
may not be the most effective treatment.
Often, this is done to keep patients happy
or simply because doctors are unsure of what
is causing minor illnesses. Itís incredibly difficult
for doctors to diagnose whether a sore
throat and cough is bacterial or viral. By the
time the tests provide results, the patient
could have either recovered or deteriorated.
Another cause for concern is that patients
are self-treating and taking antibiotics
left over from a previous prescription,
assuming the antibiotic will treat their
condition. If the dosage is too low, the
bacterial infection is exposed to non-lethal
doses of the antibiotic. The bacteria then
develop immunity and mutate into a superbug.
Outbreaks of acinetobacter baumannii,
a super-bug which is notoriously difficult
to treat with traditional antibiotics,
have been attributed to resistance of antibiotics.
The Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention in the USA estimates that
more than two million people become sick
every year with antibiotic resistant infections
and 23,000 of those die as a result.
Antibiotic resistant infections now have
to be treated with carbapenems, known as
Ďthe last resortí of antibiotics used to treat
severe infections. They are administered
intravenously and require the patient to be
hospitalised; pushing up healthcare costs.
Health authorities are trying to reduce
antibiotic over-prescription by encouraging
doctors to give healthcare advice and
only prescribe antibiotics when necessary.
Similarly, patients are urged to see their
doctors to obtain proper diagnosis. The
Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD)
has set up programmes to educate the
medical industry about the proper use of
antibiotics in a bid to curb the problem of
resistance. Healthcare authorities in the
Middle East have also set up Antibiotic
Resistance Surveillance (ARS) systems
to pinpoint in the community where antibiotics
are being misused and tackle the
problem more effectively.
Thankfully, advances are being made to
improve diagnosis of infections. At Duke
University in the USA, researchers are developing
a simple blood test which determines
if an infection is bacterial or viral. It
looks at genes and immune system behaviour,
which act differently depending on
the type of infection the patient has. The
current test is limited to testing individual
strains of bacterial and viral infections. It is
a costly and time consuming process which
often provides little insight into what is
causing the illness, making accurate treatment
difficult. Outbreaks of viral infections,
such as the recent MERS (Middle
East Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus,
would also benefit from the new test. Patients
could be tested quickly and effectively
to determine if they need to stay in
quarantine. In turn, this would reduce the
spread of infection and prevent unnecessary
or precautionary antibiotic treatment.
We can all help with the growing problem
of antibiotic reliance and resistance. Good
personal hygiene will increase protection
against infections, particularly during cold
and influenza seasons. If youíre unlucky
enough to get a minor cold, while remaining
generally healthy with no underlying health
problems, the best prescription is rest, a balanced
diet and staying hydrated.
Durbin PLC is a British company
based in South Harrow, London.
Established in 1963, the company specialises in supplying quality
assured pharmaceuticals, medical
equipment and consumable supplies
to healthcare professionals and
aid agencies in over 180 countries.
As well as reacting rapidly to
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responds to healthcare supply
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Web address: www.durbin.co.uk
of upload: 09th Apr 2014