Antibiotics are medications that destroy bacteria that cause various infections in the body. They therefore help to treat infectious diseases, to prevent the spread of these diseases, and also to minimise the chances of an infection after some surgical and medical procedures like cesarean section (CS), among others. Examples of antibiotics are amoxicillin, ampicillin, flagyl and ciprofloxacin. The importance of antibiotics in modern medicine cannot be overemphasized especially in developing countries where there is a higher risk for infections.
When antibiotics are misused or overused, the bacteria become ‘used to it’ and develop resistance towards common antibiotics. When bacteria develop resistance to a particular antibiotic, that antibiotic becomes less effective at destroying the bacteria or might not work on them.
Overuse of antibiotics
Overuse of antibiotics occurs when antibiotics are used even in conditions in the treatment of which they are not needed like in some cases of viral diseases such cough, sore throat and flu. Patients are at risk of overuse of antibiotics when under-qualified personnel stock and dispense antibiotics. Patients who have access to prescription-only antibiotics over the counter are also at risk. Overuse of antibiotics also occurs when the exact bacteria responsible for an infection or its sensitivity to the antibiotic is not accurately known leading to wrong prescription.
Misuse of antibiotics
Misuse of antibiotics is mainly due to patients not completing all the antibiotics doses prescribed for them by the doctor. This results in the bacteria responsible for the infection not completely cleared from the patient, leading to recurrent infections which are often more difficult to treat. These patients sometimes become prescribers themselves and take the remaining antibiotics another time when they fall sick or give the remaining antibiotics to others who show similar symptoms.
These practices result in the infectious bacteria not exposed to enough antibiotic to destroy them completely. The bacteria then mutates to protect itself from the destructive effects of the antibiotics or to develop a way of neutralizing the antibiotic. Microbes that develop resistance to antibiotics are able to replicate this unique feature as they multiply themselves. The resistance property acquired by the bacteria can also be passed to others to perpetuate this resistance to antibiotics.
Consequences of antibiotic resistance
Antibiotic resistance leads to
- Higher cost of treatment
- More serious illness and more deaths
- More hospital visits and admissions
- More invasive treatments for infections which could have previously be treated with less intensive methods
What you can do?
- Don’t stop taking antibiotics prescribed for you by the doctor even if your symptoms have improved and you feel better.
- Don’t take antibiotics that have not been prescribed for you.
- Don’t buy antibiotics over the counter that is without a prescription.
- Take your antibiotics exactly as you are instructed to by the pharmacist.
- If for some reasons you have left over antibiotics, don’t use them, discard them.
- Insist on the appropriate professional to dispense your antibiotics.
- Conduct your laboratory test at and with the appropriate testing centre and professional, respectively.
- Prevent infections by practicing good personal hygiene.
- Get recommended vaccination.
Last page review: 22/03/2016
Next page review: 22/03/2018