Overcoming antibiotic resistance is a collective responsibility

Ekwi Ajide, CNS Correspondent, Nigeria
Photo credit: WHO
Antibiotic resistance according to the World Health Organisation is one of the world's most serious health threats. This assertion may not be unconnected with the fact that antibiotic resistant bacterial infections are much harder to treat, just as they leave the sufferer sicker and infectious for longer periods, thereby giving the ‘superbugs’ more  opportunity to spread.

Prof. Anthony Igwegbe Chief Medical Director of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, Nnewi, Nigeria says that, “Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria, which drugs are taken for, change in order to protect themselves from the drugs. Once this change takes place, antibiotics that would have previously killed the bacteria, or stopped it from multiplying, no longer work.”The Chief Medical Director stated that antibiotic resistance can occur when:
  1. antibiotics are unnecessarily taken to treat non bacterial sickness like colds and flus that are caused by viruses, and 
  2.  they are taken against a doctor’s prescription but in the wrong dose or at the wrong time.
He advised that one should take an antibiotic if it is deemed necessary by the doctor, take the right dose of antibiotic at the right time and for as long as prescribed by the doctor. One must also remember to always wash hands with warm soapy water and stay  at home whenever sick in order to prevent infections and antibiotic resistance from spreading.

In spite of the fight against antibiotic resistance, many people in Anambra State (the South Eastern part of Nigeria) still patronise traditional medicine dealers, buy  and use antibiotics without prescription and, often times, a single kind of drug is claimed to cure a litany of ailments to the detriment of the users.

For Prof Peter Katchy, a homeopathic doctor, the fight against antimicrobial resistance, can only be  won if the people's way of thinking is changed and the government is ready to take action to increase the viability of investing in new antibiotics, at the same time ensuring quality and stewardship of all antibiotics, and making responses to emerging resistance more informed since success requires thoughtful exercises.

Prof. Katchy said there is an increasing and warranted sense of urgency to reverse the public health problem of antibiotic-resistant infections even as antibiotic-resistant infections are becoming more and more frequent, resulting in treatment failures, increasing healthcare costs and endangering lives. In his opinion there must be concerted efforts to attack the problem from all angles and by many more parties. The actions must combat the spread of antibiotic resistance, reinvigorate the development of new antibiotics, and prolong the effectiveness of current and new antibiotic therapies.

Prof Katchy said solution to ending antimicrobial resistance include  the Nigeria Food and Drug Administration Control Agency (NAFDAC) significantly reducing clinical study risks and uncertainties that discourage drug developers from testing new antibiotics. He said NAFDAC can achieve this  by making room for access to data so as to remove a large hurdle in the approval of new antibiotics and availability of robust and uniform controls to measure treatment effects and also to increase the feasibility of completing enrolment of study participants to help drug developers establish new drugs. He said that the Federal government must have a firm commitment to share data and also reward developers for the value generated with new, life-saving antibiotics.

All said and done, the fight against antimicrobial resistance can only be won if all hands are on deck, the people's mindset is changed for the better and the government gives better access to data so that drug developers can utilise them for good.

Ekwi Ajide, Citizen News Service - CNS
November 13, 2018