Dire prognosis

The World Health Organisation’s warning about disease-causing bacteria developing increasing resistance to antibiotic treatment is not new.

Many in the medical fraternity and others have also cautioned the world about the chances of human beings losing their power of resistance to diseases and bacteria developing immunity to the drugs which are used to fight them. But the WHO’s first global report on antibiotic resistance based on studies all over the world, which was released last week, makes the dreadful scenario of a world without defence against superbugs look very real in the near future. It may not remain a science fiction nightmare if our present practices of use of drugs are not regulated and changed. The organisation clearly says that without urgent co-ordinated action by many stake-holders, the world is headed for a “post-antibiotic era in which even common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.”

The over 25 antibiotics are used indiscriminately, whether they are actually needed or not. Doctors are to be faulted for prescribing them even for minor ailments or in very high dosages which are overkill. Chemists sell them without prescription even though it is illegal. Patients or those think they are patients demand them over the counter.

 Overexposure to antibiotics make bacteria  genetically mutate and become strong enough to make the drugs ineffective. In course of time, natural selection will ensure that the stronger bacteria dominate others and the pharmacy will be left with no ways to counter them. WHO has noted that antibiotic resistance is seen in a number of bacteria which are responsible for common diseases like bloodstream infections, diarrhoea and pneumonia. The resistance to antibiotic treatment is now seen all over the world. 

The situation in India is as bad as in any or part of the world or worse. A superbug which was discovered a few years ago and created a scare the world over was named NDM-1 because it was first found in New Delhi. The notification mandating the sale of antibiotics only on a doctor’s prescription, which was expected to come into effect this year, is still not being properly implemented. An earlier WHO study had found that the level of usage of antibiotics without prescription is very high in India. The best way to avoid being left without defence against superbugs is to avoid or minimise the use of antibiotics. It will keep our defences intact and  avert the emergence of superbugs.

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