Is it time to panic? Yes. Looks like humanity is fast heading to a self-created antediluvian era with medicines becoming ineffective against diseases.
According to World Health Organisation's (WHO) first global report on the subject, resistance to antibiotics is a serious threat to public health, and it's a worldwide phenomenon. The report, released on Wednesday, gives the most comprehensive picture of antibiotic resistance to date.
"Unless stakeholders take urgent, coordinated action, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries, which have been treatable for decades, can once again begin to kill," says Dr Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general for Health Security, WHO.
As per the report—'Antimicrobial resistance: global report on surveillance'—many infectious agents have developed resistance, but it is focusing on antibiotic resistance in seven different bacteria responsible for serious common diseases such as bloodstream infections (sepsis), diarrhoea, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and gonorrhoea.
It's a burgeoning problem in WHO's South-East Asia Region, home to a quarter of the world's population. In some parts of the region, more than a quarter of Staphylococcus aureus infections are reported to be methicillin-resistant (MRSA), that is treatment with standard antibiotics does not work. Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO regional director for South-East Asia, has identified drug resistance as a priority area of WHO's work in the region.
According to the report, the burden of infectious disease in India is among the highest in the world. And the reason for the antimicrobial resistance is the inappropriate and irrational use of antimicrobial agents against these diseases. Poor regulation, particularly in prescription of medicines, is the major reason for this.
Realising the threat, the Indian Medical Association has started a campaign to educate its doctors on judicious use of antibiotics. Dr Jayant Lele, general secretary, IMA Maharashtra said: "The decision was taken at a recent IMA meeting in Rajasthan. We plan to educate our doctors on the rationale use of antibiotics."
Dr Khusrav Bajan, consultant intensivist, PD Hinduja Hospital added that no new groups of antibiotics had been developed since the 1990s. "Microorganisms have evolved at a higher speed than drug development. The current high-end antibiotics have become ineffective in treating some infections. Carbapenem is the last group of antibiotic developed worldwide. New Delhi superbug or New Delhi Metallo-B-Lactamose 1 (NDM1) is just one example."
People can help tackle resistance by:
Using antibiotics only when prescribed by doctor
Completing the course, even if they feel better
Never sharing antibiotics with others or using leftovers
Health workers and pharmacists can help tackle resistance by:
Enhancing infection prevention and control
Only prescribing/dispensing antibiotics when truly needed
Prescribing/dispensing the right antibiotic(s).