Antibiotics are substances that are able to destroy or inhibit the growth of bacteria and other similar organisms. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change and they no longer respond effectively to antibiotics that were initially used to treat infections they cause and therefore they continue to multiply and cause more harm.
There are several factors that contribute to antibiotic resistance:
- Over-prescription of antibiotics. This includes prescribing many potent drugs to a patient and this could be due to seeking medical attention in different hospitals or clinics without giving adequate history of previous treatment.
- Overusing antibiotics in the meat supply chain. More than 50% of all antibiotics globally are used in the meat supply chain to prevent rather than treat infections, to promote rapid growth and weight gain.
- Failure of patients to finish their treatment. Bacteria are able to mutate in such a way as to avoid being destroyed by the drug since they gotten to know how the antibiotic works.
- Poor control of infections in hospitals and clinics. Patients admitted in hospital have a risk of developing hospital-acquired infections, some of are caused by strains of resistant bacteria such as Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
- Failure to develop new antibiotics. Bacteria are constantly undergoing mutation and failure to develop new antibiotics leads to development of resistant strains.
- Poor sanitation and hygiene. This results in infections that require treatment with antibiotics and eventually lead to emergence of resistant strains of bacteria that fail to respond to antibiotics used to treat them.
Antibiotic resistance is a global problem. The following are ways to eradicate this scourge:
- Accounting for all the antibiotic used. This applies to both healthcare providers and farmers. With this, healthcare providers and farmers will avoid irrational use of antibiotics.
- Adoption of a policy that fosters protection of human health by restriction of non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock.
- Practicing proper hygiene by washing hands thoroughly and handling food hygienically decreases the risk of getting food-borne illnesses hence antibiotics for treatment may not be needed frequently.
- Offering civic education to the people through mass media can come in handy in the eradication of antibiotic resistance. Lack of knowledge on the dangers of drug abuse such as use of non-prescription medication has contributed immensely to antibiotic resistance. Plato said ignorance is the root and stem of all evil. Therefore, educating the masses on antibiotic resistance and how to deal with it can greatly help eradicate this problem.
- Adequate training of healthcare professionals on the use of antibiotics. Healthcare professionals are in charge of dispensing medication to patients and the general population. With adequate training, healthcare professionals should uphold their professionalism and exercise integrity at all times.
Next time you think of self-medication or not finishing your treatment remember you could be developing superbugs that will be harmful to you and others as well. Eradication of antibiotic resistance begins with YOU!
Kenyatta University, Nairobi, Kenya.