Inappropriate Use: Many patients take antibiotics on their own even in routine cold and flu, whereas this occurs because of virus and not bacteria.
Truly a case of friend turned foe, the increased power of resistance shown by the microbes against the antibiotics can assume dangerous proportions. And this worry is not just on paper. The recent declaration of antibiotic resistance as one the three greatest global threats by the world health organisation (WHO) sounds highly ominous. Additionally, the rising cost of hospitalization in India along with resistant bacteria can make things further worse. While the researchers ought to engage themselves in containing it before it becomes a menace, the industry too is expected to take up its share of responsibility.
"We must act urgently. The world is heading for a post-antibiotic era which will be devastating in this age of emerging infectious diseases. If we do not use antibiotics rationally, we will lose the power to fight common infections and minor injuries. We need to step up efforts to prevent antimicrobial resistance and change how we prescribe and use antibiotics," said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, at the launch of a four-day regional meeting on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) recently in Jaipur. As per WHO's definition, the antibiotic resistance refers specifically to the resistance to antibiotics that occurs in common bacteria that cause infections while antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a broader term, encompassing resistance to drugs to treat infections caused by other microbes as well, such as parasites (e.g. malaria), viruses (e.g. HIV) and fungi (e.g. Candida).
Overexposure is the culprit
Sold with or without prescription openly and easily, the unabated access to antibiotics has increased the risks. Within the past couple of years, new drug-resistant patterns have emerged and resistance has increased drastically putting more economic burden on the entire health care system. Resistant infections are often more severe, leading to longer hospital stays and increasing overall costs for treatment.
"Now we had a problem for a while but we have not responded appropriately. Recently in a study, we found that between the years 2000-2010, the total antibiotic consumption went up by 36 percent globally. Out of that, 3 quarters were just from BRICS and India was on top. India is largest consumer of antibiotics in the world. Is that justified? Partially as we have huge population with disease .Not fully because we use the extreme drugs for common ailments," says Prof Ramanan Laxminarayan, vice president- research and policy, Public Health Foundation of India who suggests the need of balance as the antibiotics are very important too. He explains further, "Lack of antibiotics for children in rural pockets has led to death cases. At the same time, over the counter sale of antibiotics has caused overexposure. Especially in rural areas, children don't have access to antibiotics while in urban areas, it can be otherwise."