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What is antimicrobial resistance (AMR)?
Antimicrobial resistance happens when microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites) change when they are exposed to antimicrobial drugs (such as antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, antimalarials, and anthelmintics). Microorganisms that develop antimicrobial resistance are sometimes referred to as “superbugs”. As a result, the medicines become ineffective and infections persist in the body, increasing the risk of spread to others.
Image credit: WHO EMRO
AMR occurs naturally, but misuse of antimicrobials in humans and animals is accelerating the process. It is rising to a dangerous level in all parts of the world and hampered our ability to treat common infections.
AMR poses a big threat to global health. It is not something that happened in a distant lab or somewhere regular people won’t go. Antimicrobial resistance is circulating among humans, animals and the environment. Its effects trickle down to you and me, the regular folks, and impact us in many ways we could ever imagine.
Why should you care about AMR?
The spread of AMR has led to many infections ---- such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning, gonorrhoea, and foodborne diseases --- harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat. This lead to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and more people died from infections.
Without aggressive actions taken, we are heading to a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.
Image credit: Wikipedia
What can you do to slow the spread of AMR?
Even if new medicines are developed, without behaviour change, antibiotic resistance will remain a major threat. Here are what you can do to slow down AMR:
Take antibiotics only when it is necessary
Antibiotic is not a magic pill for every sickness you’ve got, and it certainly does not work for cold and flu as they are caused by viruses rather than bacteria. Never demand antibiotics if your doctor or pharmacist says you don’t need them.
Trust and follow the experts
Only use antibiotics which are prescribed by your doctor, and take them according to the instructions given. Never share or use leftover antibiotics. If you’re supposed to finish the entire course of antibiotics, please follow the advice accordingly.
The best way to reduce the use of antimicrobial is to prevent the infection in the first place. Vaccination is the most successful and cost-effective health interventions. Yet, there are still nearly 20 million children in the world today who are not getting the vaccines they need.
Prevent infections by regularly washing hands, preparing food hygienically, avoiding close contact with sick people, practising safer sex, and keeping vaccinations up to date.
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.
Image credit: WHO Antibiotic Awareness Week 2018
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