Is antibiotic resistance an impending apocalypse?

Antibiotics are losing their power because of their excessive and inappropriate use.
Antibiotics are losing their power because of their excessive and inappropriate use.

What is it that we the humans dread the most? It is none other than death. Because we don’t know what does it feel like to die and where do we go after our death. We all dearly love our bodies and prefer to peer into a mirror daily to detect any signs of aging or degeneration. The moment we feel any inconvenience in our bodies, we start googling for symptom check, and rush to a doctor if the symptoms point towards something ominous.

Most of the diseases we get are the result of infections, and the antibiotics, which have the capability to protect us from almost all microbial infections, enable the physicians to reassure us of a cure. So in other words, the antibiotic/antimicrobial drugs are the things that enable us to overcome the fear of premature death. They also make it possible for us to undergo surgeries without any dreadful complications.

However, if the medical scientists are to be believed, all this is going to change. They say that there are perceptible signs of many of the harmful microbes developing antibiotic resistance, in other words, the infections caused by these  microbes cease to be treatable by using antibiotics. This phenomenon is already observed in many parts of the world and there is a possibility of it spreading throughout the world. If such a situation arises, the future of humanity will be very bleak. When you get infected with a disease, you go to a physician and the physician tells you ‘sorry… there is nothing that I can do to save you’. Imagine the scary prospect of even small infections getting transformed into life-threatening conditions, and your survival becomes dependent on sheer luck.bacteria pull

Now the big question is what are the reasons that are contributing to the advent of such a dreadful and precarious situation? One of the reasons cited is the excessive and indiscriminate use of antibiotics.

People have this habit of popping antibiotic pills even for cold and sore throat.
People have this habit of popping antibiotic pills even for cold and sore throat.

In India, most of the antibiotic drugs are available over the counter. Whenever my four-year-old daughter catches cold, my wife asks me to get Amoxicillin oral suspension.

Most of the poor people in our country, who are unable to bear the high medical costs, go to a nearby pharmacist, reveal their symptoms and ask for medicines.  The pharmacists, based on their knowledge and guess work, dispense some tablets, especially antibiotics, which leads to the rampant misuse of the antimicrobial drugs.

Even the medical professionals in India, unable to resist their greed to get more commissions and goodies from the pharmaceutical companies, over prescribe the antibiotic medication.

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Sometimes it so happens that a physician, when he has incomplete or imperfect information to diagnose an infection, tends to prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic with a suspicion that the patient might be suffering from an infection.

So the patients, pharmaceutical companies, and physicians are all contributing to the phenomenon of antibiotic/antimicrobial resistance.

Now what are the measures that could be taken to avert the crisis?

As the primary reason behind the growth of drug resistance is the excessive and inappropriate use of antibiotics, the government should step in to formulate the rules and regulations to curb the misuse of antibiotic drugs.

Over the counter availability of antibiotics should be regulated in our country to prevent their inappropriate use.

As the people got used to popping antibiotic pills even for some common viral infections like common cold and sore throat, the pharmacists should not be allowed to sell the antibiotics without a prescription. Even the medical profession should be regulated in such a way that the physicians diagnose the infectious diseases accurately and prescribe a specific and judicious use of antibiotics.

Already the scientists have discovered an enzyme called New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1 (NDM-1), that makes bacteria resistant to antimicrobial drugs, which is found in India, Pakistan, the UK, the US, Canada and Japan.

India is particularly vulnerable to the phenomenon of antibiotic/antimicrobial resistance because of the highly inadequate and expensive diagnostics services, greedy pharmaceutical companies, easy-going healthcare professionals, and rampant availability of antibiotics over the counter.

So the government and the professional associations like IMA should plunge into action and take decisive steps to curb the inappropriate use of antibiotics so that the frightening prospect of losing lives to simple infections in future could be averted.

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I'm a news junkie and a compulsive blogger. I learn as if I was destined to live forever. My ideas always keep evolving. I got published in The Hindu, The New Indian Express and Telangana Today.
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