Awareness needed to fight drug resistance

The World Heath Organisation has warned that the lack of understanding of antibiotic resistance is part of the reason the treatment and prevention of bacterial infections remains a challenge.

In a 12-country survey published as part of the world antibiotic awareness week (November 16-22), involving 10,000 people, almost 64 per cent of the respondents said they know antibiotic resistance could affect them and their families, but they did not know how that happens and what they can do to address the problem.

About 32 per cent of those surveyed believed they can stop taking antibiotics when they feel better, rather than complete the prescribed course of treatment.

“The rise of antibiotic resistance is a global health crisis, and governments now recognise it as one of the greatest challenges for public health today,” said Dr Margaret Chan, the director-general of WHO, in a press statement at the launch of the survey results recently.

The survey was conducted in Barbados, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, Sudan and Vietnam.

Lack of prescription

According to Prof Denis Byarugaba, the chairperson of the Global Antibiotic Resistance Partnership (GARP)-Uganda working group, resistance is growing largely because of widespread intake of antibiotics without prescription.

“Without greater awareness, the overuse of antibiotics increases the risk of developing resistance,” said Prof Byarugaba.

GARP is an initiative of the Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy. The programme started in 2009 to address the challenge of antibiotic resistance in low and middle-income countries.

According to a report by GARP-Uganda, in many low-income countries, including those in East Africa, treatment will be out of reach financially for many people as newer, expensive antibiotics will be the only effective options.

In May this year, WHO member countries approved a global action plan to combat antibiotic resistance.

Part of the plan is to improve awareness and understanding of antibiotic resistance through effective communication, education and training.