Antibiotics: The Thin Line Between Use and Abuse-A A +A
Health In Focus
Thursday, October 17, 2013
ANTIBIOTICS are medicines that fight or prevent infections. But, not all infections.
These drugs are effective when directed against bacteria, certain parasites and some types of fungi, but not viruses.
The discovery of these drugs against the disease producing microbes is hailed as among modern medicine’s greatest achievements.
Since the 1940’s these antimicrobials greatly reduced illness and death. It gave hope to millions of patients, worldwide, and they were even called the wonder drugs.
But, just like any tool or technological advances, when it becomes used inappropriately, it becomes a double edged sword.
Its misuse, underuse, and overuse, brought with it, microbial resistance to the drugs. This antibiotic resistance is now causing worldwide public health problems.
Where before the mere giving of antibiotics affords cure to the patient, the present times saw its effectiveness and usefulness as limited by the possibility of resistance by the microbes.
It is worth mentioning that germs or microorganisms constantly adapt to their environment and they have the ability to take on the characteristics of other germs.
Random mutations occur, and there are instances when the bacterium develops several resistance genes (known as ‘super bugs’).
When this happens, the need for a higher generation drug, or the simultaneous use of two or more drugs, must be considered.
And if this fails, the antibiotics instead of taken orally, might have to be given through the IV line.
It is not uncommon to hear that patients acquire infections in the hospital while getting admitted for another reason.
This can occur because of the difficulty of killing the bacteria, arising from the resistance to the drugs that were given.
Thus, antibiotic resistance cause so much more than meets the eye.
Healthcare costs rises, visits to the doctor’s clinics or hospitalization increases, the cost of medicines rises.
But more than the cost, is the probability that there may come a time when the patient’s response to even the strongest or highest classification of antibiotics may be compromised.
There are diseases now afflicting mankind with multiple strains that are resistant to the standard drug regimens: tuberculosis, HIV, malaria, to name a few.
Simply put, when one gets the disease, the treatment protocol may entail more than one drug.
Just knowing what happens when there is misuse of the antibiotics should alert each one of us in the judicious use of these drugs.
Patients should be well informed on what’s ailing them.
It is good to be able to ask your attending doctor if you have a viral or bacterial infection.
Viruses don’t need to be treated with antibiotics. If the disease is bacterial, then, the drug of choice must be directed on what caused the illness.
It is important to follow the prescription to the letter: no shortcuts in other words.
It is good practice not to share prescriptions with a friend or a neighbor.
Meaning, should you know of one who happened to have a similar illness as yours, advise that person to seek consultation and not just buy over the counter drugs.
A correct diagnosis is a MUST for the correct medication to be given.
Washing of hands is a universal tool that is simple and yet effective in decreasing the possibility of acquiring infections.
And should you have unused or expired medicines in your homes, dispose them properly, not by flushing them in the toilet bowls or sinks (as it may contaminate the water), but by handing them over to the pharmaceuticals so they can dispose them properly.
And, yes, washing the fruits and vegetables prior to use can help minimize bacterial contamination.
Remember that medicines are used in some products as well as in the treatment and prevention of infections in the agri-business industry.
Using antibiotics correctly, and not as a shotgun treatment to whatever is ailing you, will surely benefit not just yourself but all of us.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on October 18, 2013.