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23 Jun 2024, Edition - 3267, Sunday

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Antibiotic Resistance – An Immediate Public Health Threat

Dr. Sudha Ramalingam


Antibiotics are medicines prescribed by doctors to kill or stop the growth of bacteria when someone suffers an illness due to infection caused by these organisms. As per recent reports from the World Health Organization, antibiotic resistance has become a major public health threat globally and more so in developing countries such as India.

The major reasons for antibiotic resistance are:

a) Consumption of antibiotics unnecessarily when there is no real indication. It is not uncommon to begin antibiotics even when a disease is commonly caused by virus, for example, common cold. This unscrupulous use of antibiotics leads to resistant strains.

b) Buying “over-the-counter” antibiotics without doctor’s prescription. This leads to overuse of antibiotics when not really needed.

c) Not completing the full course of antibiotics per the doctor’s instructions. Usually antibiotics are prescribed for a period of 5 -7 days depending on the severity of infection. This duration is because the antibiotic course would completely kill all the microorganisms causing the disease.

Because of this significant surge in antibiotic resistance, even minor illnesses are becoming increasingly difficult to treat with commonly available, less expensive antibiotics. This eventually leads to not just worsening of illness but also makes treatment options more expensive as the illness requires high-end, expensive antibiotics, and sometimes even death.

How to fight this issue?

a) Responsible consumption of medication only when it is needed and that too only after a qualified doctor prescribes it.

b) Refrain from using or sharing leftover medicines from any past illness. The present episode may not warrant an antibiotic at all.

c) Above all, prevention is the best cure. Most common illnesses can be prevented by following hygienic practices such as washing hands, boiling drinking water, maintaining food hygiene, etc.

Remember, fighting this major threat to humanity is the responsibility of each and every one of us.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own

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