Antimicrobial Resistance - The ticking time bomb
So what is antimicrobial resistance and why is it a problem?
Antibiotic resistance occurs when an antibiotic has lost its ability to effectively control or kill bacterial growth; in other words, the bacteria are "resistant" and continue to multiply in the presence of therapeutic levels of an antibiotic. There are different kinds of antimicrobial drugs which work to fight off and combat different organisms. Antibacterial drugs or more commonly referred to as antibiotics, work to fight bacterial infections, whereas an antiviral works against a virus such as HIV.
"Australia is one of the highest users of antibiotics in the developed world, with around 22 million prescriptions written every year in primary care."
- Aust Prescriber, 2013
The threat of 'Super Bugs' and the disastrous rise in antibiotic resistance is getting worse. Misuse and overprescription of infection antibiotics, has accelerated the evolution of drug-resistant strains. The use of antibiotics has increased by 36% in the past decade but no new classes of these drugs have been discovered since the 1980's.
UK’s Chief Medical Officer also raised the alarm about the problem in 2013, stating antibiotic resistant is a “ticking time bomb” comparable to climate change and terrorism.
Globally, It's estimated over 700,000 people die each year due to an infection that has become immune to the drugs that were once an effective treatment. The UK Government’s review on drug resistance predicts that by 2050 this number will rise to 10 million deaths a year, with a cost to the global economy of $100 trillion.
How do we slow the rise, what can we do?
According to a large number of experts, the first step is education. People often cannot change what they do not know,poor hand hygiene, incorrect hand washing method and limited understanding of antibiotic resistance is a usually a product of lack of awareness, not ignorance. Stopping the
With strategies being targeted at our education systems, good hand hygiene and awareness of the effect of antibiotic 'overuse' in our society may help to slow the rapidly increasing antimicrobial resistance to ensure that these treatments do not become obsolete in the future.
"We need to address the growing problem of drug-resistant infections as the global medicine cabinet is becoming increasingly bare. Preventing infections in the first place is key and so is education on how to use antibiotics appropriately."
- Dame Sally Davies, England's Chief Medical Office.
So what will happen if nothing changes?
Without effective antibiotics, common infections like pneumonia or even food poisoning from the local pub may can be life threatening. Typically, those of us with weaker imuune systems are the most 'at risk'. Young children and the elderly make up the majority of persons effected by drug resistant Superbugs.
And as more and more bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, routine medical procedures which rely on antibiotics to prevent infection – like chemotherapy, organ transplants and hip replacements – will become impossible.
"Without sustained changes to the way we manage infections and protect these medicines, some routine medical procedures such as minor surgery or a hip replacement may become fatal"
- Prof Gillian Leng, Dpty Chief Executive UK NICE
For more information on hand washing, technique, please follow this link to the WHO website.