Never share your prescribed antibiotics with others—Doctor  

November 18-24 is World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW), set aside by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to increase awareness of global antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and to encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policy makers to avoid the further emergence and spread of drug-resistant infections.

Dr. Parth Patel

The theme for 2020 is ‘Antimicrobials: handle with care’ and Malawian medical practitioner, Dr. Parth Patel says in order protect oneself and their family from antibiotic resistance, never share antibiotic with others and not to save them for later.

“Do not take antibiotics prescribed for someone else,” says Dr. Patel in an exclusive interview. “Talk with your doctor and pharmacist if you have any questions about your antibiotics.

“Even if you are feeling better and symptoms have improved, that does not always mean the infection is completely gone. If you stop taking the antibiotic prescription too soon, all of the bacteria causing the infection might not be killed.

“You might become sick again, and the remaining bacteria might become resistant to the antibiotic you’ve taken,” he said.

Other measures to protect from antibiotic resistance include cleaning hands, covering coughs, staying home when sick, and getting recommended vaccines.

“Take antibiotics only when they are needed is an important way you can protect yourself and your family from antibiotic resistance,” says Patel.

“Talk with your doctor about the best treatment if you are sick — never pressure your doctor to prescribe an antibiotic.

“When antibiotics aren’t needed, they won’t help you and their side effects could still cause harm.”

He said it is best to ask a doctor or pharmacist about steps one can take to feel better when an antibiotic isn’t needed.

“If your doctor decides an antibiotic is the best treatment when you are sick, take the antibiotic exactly as your doctor tells you.”

He explained that antibiotics are critical tools for preventing and treating infections caused by specific bacteria in people, animals, and crops.

“Bacteria and fungi are germs found inside and outside of our bodies. Most germs are harmless, and some can even be helpful to humans but some can cause infections, like strep throat and urinary tract infections.”

He described ‘Superbugs’ as bacteria that have become resistant to multiple antibiotics typically used to treat them.

What is antibiotic resistance?

“Antibiotic resistance is the natural process by which bacteria develop resistance over time to the medicines used to treat them.

“As resistance develops, these medicines become progressively less effective — and eventually they lose their effectiveness entirely.

“Antibiotic resistance is a consequence of the use of antibiotics, and misuse accelerates the emergence of resistance.”

Patel says infections caused by antibiotic-resistant germs are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to treat and require extended hospital stays.

Inappropriate use of antibiotics

This, according to Patel, is when antibiotics are taken when not needed, or taken for too short period of a time, at very low doses.

Both overuse and underuse play a role — overuse such as through the over-prescribing of antibiotics and underuse due to lack of access, inadequate dosing and poor adherence.

He added that everyone has a role to play in improving antibiotic use and appropriate antibiotic use helps fight antibiotic resistance and ensures these lifesaving drugs will be available for future generations.

Patel said antibiotic resistance is certainly part of the problem that creates antibiotic resistance but it is also much broader than that as drug resistance is a natural process, all microorganisms could eventually develop resistance to the medicines used to treat them.

“Implementation of national policies and the rational use of medicines by providers and patients, can help considerably in slowing down the development and spread of resistance.

“Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 30% of the times antibiotic courses are prescribed for infections, they are not required, like for colds and the flu each year.

Do antibiotics help with  common cold or flu?

“No!”  Patel emphasises. “Antibiotics only work for bacterial infections. The common cold and flu are caused by viruses, so antibiotics will not work.

“Antibiotics do not work for some common respiratory infections, including most cases of bronchitis, many sinus infections, and some ear infections.”

Patel said one can be prescribed to again take an antibiotic, saying they are lifesaving tools and are important part of medicine.

“When prescribed and taken appropriately, they are vital in treating bacterial infections. Many routine vaccines prevent bacterial infections.

“But if a person does not get infected in the first place, there is no need to treat with antibiotics.”

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