Windhoek-Antibiotics are in danger of losing their effectiveness due to over-prescription and dispensing by healthcare professionals, as well as misuse by patients, such as not following the advice of healthcare professionals; overuse in farming and animal husbandry; poor infection control, and a lack of new antibiotics, says the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The WHO regional director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti said in a statement last week that antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria (not humans or animals) become resistant to the active ingredients in these medicines.
“Antibiotic resistant bacteria may infect humans and animals, making the infections they cause harder to treat, contributing to prolonged, more expensive treatments, longer hospital stays, lost productivity and increased mortality,” said Moeti.
Last week, WHO observed World Antibiotics Awareness Week. The theme for this year was ‘Seek Advice From A Qualified Health Professional Before Taking Antibiotics’.
According to the WHO, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health and development. It is rising at alarming rates around the world, Moeti added. Infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and gonorrhea are at times impossible to treat as antibiotics become less effective.
For instance, the bacteria that cause gonorrhea are evolving rapidly to evade new classes of antibiotics to treat the infection. This puts women particularly at greater risk of developing complications, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility, as well as an increased risk of HIV,” said Moeti.
Further, Africa lacks adequate data to clearly grasp the scope and scale of the problem, Moeti noted.
“However, we know that antibiotic resistance is rising because common bacteria which cause urinary tract infections, diarrhea, wound infections which can lead to sepsis, and pneumonia among other things, are becoming resistant to frequently available and prescribed antibiotics,” he added.
The WHO in the African region has made the fight against antibiotic resistance a top health priority and is working with countries to implement the Regional Emergency and Security Strategy, Moeti said.
“With WHO support, more countries are developing and implementing national action plans to combat antibiotic resistance and improve surveillance to provide reliable data for action, ” he added.
He also said that WHO will assist countries to build stronger health systems through regulation and policy actions to promote the appropriate use of quality antibiotics.
“Misuse of antibiotics puts us all at risk. Taking antibiotics unnecessarily speeds up antibiotic resistance, making infections more difficult and expensive to treat. Therefore, I advise everyone to think twice, seek advice and always consult a qualified health professional before taking antibiotics,” Moeti advised.