Antimicrobial resistance: An understated threat

Avantika Chaturvedi, CNS Correspondent, India
Antimicrobial resistance is a condition when a microbe starts resisting the effects of medication that once could successfully treat diseases caused by the microbe. Resistant microbes are more difficult to treat, requiring alternative medications or higher doses of antimicrobials, making treatment more expensive and/or more toxic. Microbes resistant to multiple antimicrobials are called multi-drug resistant.

All classes of microbes can develop resistance. Antimicrobial resistance arises through various mechanisms: natural resistance acquired by certain microbes due to genetic mutation or by one species acquiring resistance from another; eating meat or dairy products or even crops that have been disinfected against various microbes; and improper use of medicines. The resistance ruptures the basic healthy functioning of immune system, making individuals more prone to communicable diseases. Data shows that many lives are lost every year and many become more vulnerable to a host of diseases.

Says Smita Sreenath, a senior nurse in the Indian Army, “For a layman’s understanding, antimicrobial resistance is the condition where microbes survive in the presence of a chemical (drug) that would normally kill them or break their growth. The resistance forces patients to use higher doses of medication often with more severe side effects, which could be life threatening.

According to Smita, the human body is a complex system which works in a very coordinated and organized way where every cell and organ works in harmony with others, including the microbes. Our body harbours many healthy microbes that help in breaking down of food and releasing nutritional value, combat conditions that increase the risk of many ailments. But when we start abusing antimicrobial medicines they end up killing the good microbes along with the bad ones. To minimize the affect of AMR one should encourage the diversity of the good microbes through consumption of dietary fibre and healthy food. Do not use broad spectrum antibiotics indiscriminately and practice basic hygiene like hand washing, advises Smita.

Apart from treating patients through rational use of medicines by following standard treatment guidelines, the medical practitioners and healthcare professionals should also create public awareness of AMR; advise against taking over the counter antibiotic drugs; stress upon following of infection control methods and basic hygiene.Taking all these measures, we together have to fight with the issue before it becomes too late.

Avantika Chaturvedi, Citizen News Service - CNS
November 14, 2018