Abuse of antibiotics dangerous to health


THIS week, another global public health event – World Antibiotics Awareness Week – goes by without much fanfare except for a talk to students at the Kopkop College on what it is all about.
This event should have been marked with major activities as it is a global public health concern. It is putting a spotlight on the misuse and abuse of antibiotics which can cause the human body to resist antibiotics.
For Papua New Guinea the message is focusing on the dangers of buying antibiotics like amoxycillin on the street.
The health department has on countless times warned the public not to buy medicine at unregistered outlets, which do not have proper compliance certificates and pharmaceutical licences.
Antibiotics are an indispensable weapon in every physician’s arsenal, but when prescribed unnecessarily for non-bacterial infections like the common cold, as they too often are, they provide no benefit and create problems.
Antibiotics wipe out healthy bacteria and can cause side effects like yeast infections and allergic reactions.
Worse still, they contribute to the rise of ‘superbugs’ which resist antibiotics treatment.
Antibiotics either stop bacteria from reproducing or destroy them. Before bacteria can multiply and cause symptoms, the body’s immune system can usually kill them.
Health journals say our white blood cells attack harmful bacteria and, even if symptoms do occur, our immune system can usually cope and fight off the infection.
Antibiotics resistance is rising to dangerously high levels in all parts of the world and PNG is no exception.
New resistance mechanisms are emerging and spreading globally, threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases.
A growing list of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning, gonorrhea, and foodborne diseases – are becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat as antibiotics become less effective.
Where antibiotics can be bought for human or animal use without a prescription, the emergence and spread of resistance is made worse.
Similarly, in countries without standard treatment guidelines, antibiotics are often over-prescribed by health workers and veterinarians and over-used by the public.
Without urgent action, we are heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.
Antibiotic resistance is accelerated by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, as well as poor infection prevention and control.
Steps can be taken at all levels of society to reduce the impact and limit the spread of resistance.
To prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, individuals can help themselves by using antibiotics only when prescribed by a certified health professional; never demand antibiotics if the health worker says you don’t need them; always follow the health worker’s advice when using antibiotics and never share or use leftover antibiotics.
For the health professionals, they should only prescribe and dispense antibiotics when they are needed and according to current guidelines, and talk to the patients about how to take antibiotics correctly, antibiotic resistance and the dangers of misuse.
It must be stressed that when infections can no longer be treated by antibiotics, more expensive medicines must be used.
A longer duration of illness and treatment, often in hospitals, increases health care costs as well as the economic burden on families and societies.
Antibiotic resistance is putting the achievements of modern medicine at risk.