Infectious diseases are caused by bacteria, viruses and other micro-organisms. Over time, these bugs may naturally develop resistance to the medications that we use against them. If any of the bugs become so resistant that we have a lack of effective medications against them, these 'superbugs' can pose a serious problem. And how we use medications against the bugs will have an impact on how much resistance they develop.
Here’s an analogy:
Picture a battlefield. It’s us against them - we’re on one side and on the other side are bacteria, viruses and parasites intent on doing us harm. Our best weapon against the enemy is a group of medications called “antimicrobials”, which include antibiotics, anti-virals, and anti-parasite treatments.
If we have a good understanding of our enemy, we select the correct antimicrobial weapon to wipe them out. If we mount an assault with the wrong weapon (or a weak one), we may kill off some of the weaker members of the enemy army, but the stronger ones learn from the ineffective attack and become stronger. If we keep making these weak attacks, the enemy gets stronger and stronger to the point where none of our weapons work against them.
This is basically how the problem of antimicrobial resistance comes about. We help the stronger, more dangerous microorganisms to thrive when we use antimicrobials incorrectly, and we inadvertently breed superbugs.
So how do we win this battle?
Preventing the rise and spread of resistant microorganisms requires the coordinated efforts of governments and public health institutions internationally. According to the World Health Organization, each country must educate its citizens, find superbugs in healthcare settings and in the community and get them under control, and make sure the public has access to the proper medications to prevent resistance.
As an individual, you can also do your part in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. Here are some tips:
- take antimicrobials precisely as prescribed by a physician
- finish the entire prescription
- do not save antimicrobials for future use – any leftovers should be brought to a pharmacy for safe disposal
- practice good hygiene with frequent hand washing and appropriate disinfection of surfaces
For a comprehensive look at the issue of antimicrobial resistance, see:
- drkarlkabasele posted this