Do you feel a little under the weather? Have yougot a common cold? Perhaps a slight fever? Well,that’s alright. Just get some antibiotics and everything will be fine, right? WRONG!
It is not right to always get yourself prescribed with antibiotics by the drugstore. Consuming too much antibiotics can cause your body to become antibiotic resistant. Hence, when the real need for an antibiotic crops up, it will not be able to take effect due to the built up of resistance towards it. This can be highly dangerous and even result in the worsening of diseases until it becomes fatal. Therefore, antibiotics should only be taken if prescribed by the physician.
Many people are ignorant about the dire consequences of this situation. Therefore, the Health Capsule spoke to Dr. Waruna Gunathilake, Consultant and Diabetologist at the National hospital to help spread awareness about this crucial situation to the general public on World Antibiotic Awareness week that falls next week, from the 18th November to 24th November 2019.
The ‘World Antibiotic Awareness week’ aims in sensibilising the global community about the irrational use of antibiotics. The frequent use of antibiotics causes resistance mechanisms to emerge and spread globally, thus threatening the body’s ability to treat common infectious diseases.
Dr. Gunathilake stated that this problem usually arises due to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics. He said that antibiotics are irrationally used by people all over the globe and in different degrees in different countries.
COMPICATIONS OF ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE
Most people have the misleading idea that all infections have the need to be handled by antibiotics. However, according to Dr. Gunathilake, most infections are ‘viral infections’. Chest infections, sore throat etc. are viral infections and therefore, the intake of antibiotics will not be quite convenient.
However, most people tend to use antibiotics in an irrational manner for the slightest infection generated in the body. They tend to get antibiotics prescribed by the pharmacies or even themselves. This is a huge risk to the body’s fight against bacteria. Therefore, antibiotic resistance is developed due to the unnecessary prescription and intake of antibiotics.
Dr. Gunathilake further stated that after the body manages to successfully develop resistance towards antibiotics, it will spread out in the community in the passage of time.
He stated that the community will contain resistance to bacteria and in time, they will be deprived of efficient antibiotics against the infections.
WHAT IS ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE?
Due to the continued misuse of antibiotics, the disease causing bacteria alters in a way that eliminates and reduces the effectiveness of drugs, chemicals and other agents that are designed to cure or prevent infections.
“With the passage of time, most of the micro-organisms (bacteria) get adapted and develop resistance towards the antibiotics. Therefore, we will not have much effect from the antibiotics against the bacteria to counter the infections,” Dr. Gunathilake said.
Dr. Gunathilake further stated that even in the pipeline, the formation of new antibiotics is not quite possible due to the fact that there will be less availability of antibiotics in the future.
“We have to save the existent antibiotics in a rational manner. In that context, we can make the best use out of the current existing antibiotics,” he said.
WHAT ARE ANTIBIOTICS?
Dr Gunathilake stated that antibiotics are the chemical substances or medication that is used to fight against bacteria. “It’s an antibacterial medicine used against bacterial infections,” he said.
However, the current situation of the world includes many people who are overusing and misusing antibiotics due to irrational prescriptions. Patients tend to inadvertently seek antibiotics for even the slightest occurrence of an infection.
Therefore, due to this reason, the body will become antibiotic resistant and cause many complications within the immune system within the body, thus leading to the rise of conditions where simple and common illnesses may not be cured and possibly cause death.
PREVENTION OF ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE
Dr. Gunathilake stated that antibiotics should only be prescribed by a qualified medical professional. The prescription by a doctor will include a proper dose and duration which the patient should strictly follow.
Dr. Gunathilake further advised patients to refrain from taking leftover antibiotics present at home, left by another member of the family who had the same illness.
“People should not take the antibiotics which have been left over by others. If you have a supply of amoxicillin at home which was previously used to cure another member of the family, you may tend to use it for your illness. You may recover or you may not recover ,” he said.
However, the use of medically unsupervised antibiotics can be dangerous and therefore this practice should be discontinued with immediately.
Substandard antibiotics are medicines that are produced by the industry to provide similar, expected results of an antibiotic to cure a patient. These drugs also majorly contribute in causing antibiotic resistance due to the poor quality of them.
“If the market is inundated with substandard antibiotics, that develops resistance in micro-organisms (bacteria) since the quality of the antibiotics is also important to avoid the emergence of it. If the antibiotics are substandard, the micro-organisms become partially resistant to it and with time, they would become fully resistant,” Dr Gunathilake said.
CURRENT CONTEXT OF SRI LANKA
Dr. Gunathilake explained that the Sri Lankan population of patients tend to seek antibiotics for the slightest infection. They visit their local pharmacies and buy the antibiotics prescribed by the store.
Another fault in Sri Lanka is how these pharmacies issue antibiotics (and also other medications) without the required prescription from a physician. Furthermore, patients most likely end up not taking the correct dose of the medication.
“Even without proper medical advise, people go to the pharmacy and receive antibiotics without medical supervision. Usually viral infections do not need antibiotics unless it goes to a stage of secondary infection caused by bacteria. Therefore, it should be supervised. Without medical supervision, people tend to buy antibiotics and it causes the emergence of antibiotic resistance,” Dr Gunathilake said.
This is quite a serious issue in Sri Lanka. Therefore, it is crucial to encourage the best practices among the general public and improve antibiotic prescription and usage.
Probiotics are live micro-organisms that provide health benefits, generally by improving and restoring the gut flora. They reduce the risk of certain types of infectious diseases and avoid the risk of developing antibiotic resistance caused by the misuse of antibiotics.
Dr. Gunathilake stated that probiotics contain useful bacteria that are important for a normal healthy gut. When probiotics colonize inside the gut, it causes several advantageous and healthy effects to the body.
Dr. Gunathilake explained that the gut health is important for the prevention of body illnesses. If the gut is colonized with good bacteria, it will be very useful for the body’s immunity and the defence mechanisms of the body. However, if bad bacteria is colonized in the gut, it will eradicate the good bacteria which are already present in the gut.
Bad bacteria causes a lot of damage to the gut barriers by performing events such as chemical release. This disrupts all systems and cause most diseases. Therefore, the gut microbiota flora is very important.
“In medicine, we are in the phase of colonizing good bacteria. Bacterial capsules are available. Good bacteria can prevent a lot of diseases and that is the current concept,” Dr Gunathilake said.
Probiotics are included in the daily human diet and also comes under food supplements.
Dr Gunathilake advised that the “use of antibiotics should be done in a sensible and rational manner”.