The theme for this year’s Antimicrobial Awareness Week is: “Handle with care” and the theme for Human Health is: “United to preserve antimicrobials”.
What are Antibiotics?
These are the medicines prescribed by doctors specifically designed to kill disease causing bacteria and fungi (bactericidal) or suspend their growth (bacteriostatic). Antibiotics cannot be used in treating viral infections such as coughs, colds, and flues. The first antibiotic was discovered by Alexander Fleming in the 1920s and is still being used to treat infections such as pneumonia, meningitis, syphilis, and gonorrhea. This medical breakthrough is known as Penicillin today.
Are Antimicrobials and Antibiotics the same?
Antimicrobial is a broader term used to refer to all substances capable of killing bacteria, fungi, parasites or moulds but is mostly used to refer to substances that are used to kill bacteria outside the body (cleaning agents, textiles, coatings, etc.). Antibiotics are a subset of antimicrobials used to treat, kill, or inhibit growth of bacteria and fungi inside the body.
What is Antimicrobial Resistance?
This term is used to refer to the growing problem of bacteria, fungi, and parasites being resistant to medicine thereby becoming harder to treat. This resistance to antimicrobials happen when medicine or other antibacterial agents are overused in humans, livestock and agriculture. For instance, populations have been subjecting themselves to copious intake of antibiotics (medicine) and use of antimicrobials (cleaning agents) to fight the Covid-19 virus to no avail causing bacteria, fungi and parasitic elements to grow resistant.
How did Antibiotics Awareness Week turn to Antimicrobial Awareness Week?
In May 2020, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Health Organization (WHO) decided to broaden the scope of World Antibiotics Awareness Week to be inclusive of all anti-bacterial agents hence, it was renamed to Antimicrobial Awareness Week. This was mainly due to Covid-19 promoting the misuse of antibiotics and antimicrobials by individuals and households. This has led to an alarming rate of bacteria resistant infections occurring all over the world.
- Each year over 30,000 people die from antimicrobial resistant bacteria.
- Antibiotics should not be used to treat viruses such as common cold and flu (and Covid-19).
- Almost 50% of antibiotics used in hospitals are not required.
- Misinterpretation of symptoms have led to over prescribing of antibiotics.
- Low public awareness on the overuse of antibiotics in agribusinesses.
Prevention and Control Are Key:
- Follow instructions on how to use antibiotics.
- Never take more than the prescribed amount, even if it feels like a waste.
- Never share antibiotics.
- Never request for antibiotics unless your health worker prescribes it.
- Never self-treat with leftover/excess antibiotics.
- Choose food that has not been treated with antibiotics (growth promotion, etc.)
- Cook your own food hygienically.
- Practice good hygiene by washing your hands, drying them, and keeping vaccinations updated to avoid unnecessary infections especially during Covid-19.
How Can Technology Help?
In today’s landscape, advanced cloud based healthcare systems like VIDA+ play a critical role in monitoring and preventing antimicrobial resistance.
VIDA’s smart pharmacy modules are programmed to avoid over dispensing medication (especially controlled medicines) by keeping medical records updated throughout the hospital group. These robust Electronic Medical Records (EHR) allow healthcare staff to analyze a patient’s complete history before making a decision in haste. The cloud based database VIDA+ is based on also provide healthcare staff to transmit a patient’s up-to-date medical records over to other hospitals and government healthcare agencies.
With government’s world over stepping in to update and enforce policy regarding the exchange of personal healthcare information, much needed informatics regarding antimicrobial resistance can be maintained and extracted globally within a matter of seconds.