Overuse of Antibiotics

Our bodies have very strong healing mechanisms, where it is able to fight off against internal and external factors causing diseases and recover its state of harmony. There are times however, when the body needs additional support to fight against infection causing bacteria. This is where antibiotics come in, to support body’s defense mechanism. However indiscriminate and prolonged use of antibiotics can result in a weaker defense, one which it was supposed to help in the first place.

Antibiotic use more than doubled in India between 2000 and 2015, fuelling antibiotic resistance according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)


How does overuse/misuse of antibiotics happen?

  • Exposure to food: Secondly, the use of antibiotics in animals have also increased.  Antibiotics are used in animals to treat infections/for growth purpose/to prevent diseases.  Overuse causing resistance can get transmitted to humans either by direct contact or consumption of such livestock.
  • Inappropriate dosage: Many patients stop taking antibiotics as soon as they start feeling better. It is important to complete the prescribed course of the antibiotics (3/5/7 days as advised by your doctor). Sometimes patients take lesser than required dosage, which again gives the bacteria a chance to survive and ultimately come back with vengeance, more resistant to the antibiotic this time.
  • Taking when not needed: Antibiotics are the medicines used to treat bacterial infections and not viral or fungal.  Usually cold and cough are caused by viruses, where antibiotics are of no use. But of late, over the counter sales of non prescription antibiotics and doctors prescribing antibiotics aggressively (even for cold and cough) has doubled.

Consequence of antibiotic resistance

  • Antibiotic resistance leads to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased mortality.
  • A growing number of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea, and salmonellosis – are becoming harder to treat as bacteria become resistant and the antibiotics used to treat them become less effective.

Prevention and control

To prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, WHO gives the following guidelines:

In a nutshell, if you are sick, give your body some time to get its defence mechanism in place.  Allow this defence system to do its job since body has an excellent way to deal with the invaders.  Only when body alone cannot deal with the stress of the disease is when the doctors and antibiotics come in the picture!  Act sensibly!

  • Prepare food hygienically, following the WHO Five Keys to Safer Food (keep clean, separate raw and cooked, cook thoroughly, keep food at safe temperatures, use safe water and raw materials) and choose foods that have been produced without the use of antibiotics for growth promotion or disease prevention in healthy animals.
  • Prevent infections by regularly washing hands, preparing food hygienically, avoiding close contact with sick people, practising safer sex, and keeping vaccinations up to date.
  • Never share or use leftover antibiotics.
  • Only use antibiotics when prescribed by a certified health professional, never demand one if you don’t need them.

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