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Antibiotic resistance a growing health threat

Scientists under the Uganda National Academy of Sciences (Unas) have warned of a doubling in antibiotic resistance within 10 years if nothing is done.

This was said during the launch of the Global Antibiotic Resistance Partnership (Garp), Uganda chapter, held in Kampala last week. The importance of antibiotics in the treatment and control of infectious diseases is irrefutable. They suppress and kill bacterial growth and the infections bacteria cause.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change so that antibiotics can no longer work in people who use them.

“The death rates of bacterial infections classified as urgent threats such as malaria, tetanus, TB and pneumonia are likely to increase especially in low-development countries where people cannot afford expensive second-line drugs,” said Dr David Mutekanga, the Unas executive secretary.

Garp-Uganda will be in charge of conducting evidence-based research to addresses antibiotic resistance. It will also oversee the development of actionable national strategies and harness efforts from government, the private sector and civil society to prevent resistance.

Currently, the extent of the burden of antibiotic resistance in Uganda is not known. A new World Health Organization (WHO) report, ‘Antimicrobial resistance: global report on surveillance’, released on April 30, notes that resistance is occurring across different infectious agents.

However, the focus on antibiotic resistance is in seven different bacteria responsible for common, serious diseases such as bloodstream infections (sepsis), diarrhoea, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and gonorrhea. Prof. Justin Epelu-Opio, Unas secretary general, attributed increasing trends in antibiotic resistance to self-medication with over-the-counter drugs, consuming poor-quality drugs and failure of patients to complete their doses.

Other reasons include overuse and misuse of the drugs; for example, using them to cure viral infections such as colds and flu, and lack of access to antibiotics.

Ways to fight antibiotic resistance

The WHO report notes that access to clean water, infection control in health facilities and vaccination reduce the need for antibiotics.

“There is need to develop new diagnostics and other tools to allow healthcare professionals to stay ahead of emerging resistance,” it reads.

People can tackle resistance by:

  • Using antibiotics only when prescribed by a doctor.
  • Completing full prescription, even when they feel better.
  • Never sharing antibiotics or using leftover prescriptions.

Tips for health workers;

  • Only prescribe and dispense antibiotics when they are truly needed
  • Prescribe and dispense the right antibiotics.

Tips for policymakers

  • Strengthen resistance tracking and laboratory capacity.
  • Regulate and promote appropriate use of medicines.
  • Promote cooperation among all shareholders.

ninsiima@observer.ug

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