ISLAMABAD: While the antimicrobial resistance (AMR) week is being observed across the globe, health practitioners on Tuesday warned that misuse of antibiotics can render them useless.

A group of doctors and pharmacists provided critical information about the misuse of antibiotics at an awareness kiosk at F-6 Markaz. The daylong kiosk was part of the World AMR Awareness Week being held from November 18 to 24.

“It’s a silent pandemic which everybody needs to know about,” said Dr Qadeer Ahsan, team lead DAI-Fleming Fund Country Grant Pakistan. “It is critical for people to understand that antibiotics are needed only for treating severe bacterial infections. Antibiotics do not work on viruses.”

The health professionals spoke about the negative effects of antimicrobial resistance on humans, animals and environment. Apart from highlighting the dangers of self-medication, they distributed flyers on what are antibiotics, what is AMR and how it damages the health of humans and animals.

Pakistan is the third largest consumer of antibiotics in low to middle-income countries, according to Dr Tauqeer Mustafa of the Fleming Fund. “Half of these antibiotics are inappropriately prescribed,” he added.

According to an official of the health ministry, antimicrobials, including antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and antiparasitics, are medicines used to prevent and treat infections in humans, animals and plants.

“All around the world, bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites are changing, and no longer respond to the medicines used to treat the infections they cause. This antimicrobial resistance makes infections harder to treat which increases the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death. Antimicrobial resistance emerges naturally, usually through genetic changes. However, the overuse and misuse of antimicrobials in humans, livestock and agriculture has accelerated the process as has the lack of clean water and sanitation, and inadequate infection prevention and control,” he said.

Bacteria have internal intelligence due to which, because of excessive use of antibiotics, it changes itself according to the medicine and creates resistance against the medicines. In the past, bacteria could be killed with low potency medicines but now for the same virus high potency medicines are required which is due to AMR.

On the other hand, when antibiotics fail to work the consequences are longer-lasting illnesses, more doctor visits or extended hospital stays, and the need for more expensive and toxic antibiotics. In some cases, the antibiotic-resistant infections can lead to serious disability or even death.

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2023

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