Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR)

by Dr Neeren Ravela

Superbugs are here now amongst us, what does this mean for us and what can we do about it?

What are “Super-Bugs”?

“Super-Bugs” is a common name given to the strains of microorganisms that have developed the ability to fight back and survive against commonly used antibiotics. Since the first antibiotic (penicillin) was discovered, antibiotics have been a crucial part in the fight against bacteria that can cause various infections. They have made procedures safer and contributed significantly to what modern medicine is today. But, we are slowly starting to lose the battle now with the rise and spread of multi-drug resistant “Super-Bugs”.

What is the effect of these “Super-Bugs” on us and healthcare?

These resistant “Super-Bugs” tend to colonize the hospital environment and latch on to the vulnerable patients in the healthcare settings. Any personnel who has been around critically ill patients in intensive care units would have heard about infections not responding to the usual medications or antibiotics. India had 2,97,000 deaths attributable to Anti-microbial resistance (AMR) and 10,42,500 deaths were associated with Anti-microbial resistance in 2019 alone. This number has only been increasing since and is a threat to global health. Anti-microbial resistance (AMR) is an important cause of prolonged hospitalizations, increased morbidity, and increased healthcare expenses.

How does Anti-microbial resistance (AMR) spread and increase?

The mechanisms of anti-microbial resistance and primarily governed by the genes that are inherent or acquired after exposure to the antibiotics. These resistance genes or organisms can enter our environment from human, animal, or agricultural sources, especially when there is irrational use of antibiotics. Currently, the spread of Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) is outpacing the discovery of new antibiotics, and we are left with no antibiotics to treat these multi-drug resistant “SuperBugs”.

What can one do to stop the spread of AMR?

Only a combined effort with everyone contributing from the ground level to making strong administrative policies is needed to control the imminent threat due to Anti-microbial resistance (AMR).

As a responsible citizen:

  • Avoid Self-Medication – Do Not take over-the-counter antibiotics. Common viral infections do not need antibiotics.
  • Follow the Doctor’s advice – Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed and complete the full course. Do not share or borrow antibiotics.
  • Maintain Good Hygiene – Maintaining good hygiene like frequent handwashing, maintaining cough etiquette, etc can help in preventing the spread of infections.

What should the medical professionals and hospitals do to prevent the spread of AMR?

A. Medical professionals and hospitals play a critical role in preventing the spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Here are essential actions they can take:

  • Infection Control and Prevention (IPC) – Follow recommended infection control practices when attending to patients and while using medical equipment. Adherence to proper hand hygiene practices can prevent most of the hospital-acquired infections.
  • Antimicrobial Stewardship – To regularly review the antibiotic prescription practices in the hospital and improve them based on the microbiological culture reports.
  • Policy Advocation – Bringing up policies like antibiotics cannot be purchased over-the-counter without a proper prescription, and all antibiotic prescriptions must include the rationale for the antibiotic and the duration of the antibiotic.
  • Patient Education – Educate the patients and hospital staff on the appropriate use of antibiotics.

Come, let us pledge today to be responsible citizens and help in humanity’s fight against these “Super-Bugs”. Let’s promise to handle antibiotics with care.

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