World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) is celebrated from 18-24 November every year. The 2021 theme, Spread Awareness, Stop Resistance, calls on One Health stakeholders, policymakers, health care providers, and the general public to be Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Awareness champions. (1)
What are antimicrobials?
Antimicrobials are medicines used to prevent and treat infections caused by microorganisms in humans, animals and plants.
Depending on the type of organism that the antimicrobial treats, it will also have a different, more specific name. For example:
- ‘Antibiotics’ (also known as antibacterials) prevent or treat infections caused by bacteria, such as cellulitis, urinary tract infections (UTI), tuberculosis (TB) or Sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhoea
- ‘Antivirals’ prevent or treat infections caused by viruses, such as colds, flu, chickenpox/shingles or HIV.
- ‘Antifungals’ prevent or treat infections caused by fungi, such as thrush, ring worm and athlete’s foot.
- ‘Antiparasitics’ prevent or treat infections caused by parasites, such as malaria, threadworm and headlice
An antimicrobial drug that works against one type of organism does not work against any of the other types. For example, antibiotics can treat bacterial infections, but are ineffective against all viruses, fungi and parasites.(2)
What is Antimicrobial resistance ?
Antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines previously used to treat them. As a result, the medicines become ineffective and infections persist in the body, increasing the risk of spread to others. AMR makes infections harder to treat and increases the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.
It is important to be aware that bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics spread easily from person to person and that healthy people can carry antibiotic resistant bacteria.(2)
Why Antimocrobial resistance is increasing?
Misuse and overuse of antimicrobials in humans, animals and plants are the main drivers in the development of drug-resistant infections. For example, COVID-19 is caused by a virus, not by a bacteria so antibiotics should not be used to treat a COVID infection. Poor diagnostic and prescribing practices and patients not following their treatment also contribute.
How can we prevent Antimicrobial resistance?
Avoiding infections in the first place reduces the amount of antibiotics that have to be used and reduces the likelihood that resistance will develop during therapy. There are many ways that drug-resistant infections can be prevented: immunization, safe food preparation, handwashing, and using antibiotics as directed and only when necessary. In addition, preventing infections also prevents the spread of resistant bacteria.
Preventing Antimicrobial Resistance
o prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, individuals can:
- Only use antibiotics when prescribed by a certified health professional.
- Never demand antibiotics if your health worker says you don’t need them.
- Always follow your health worker’s advice when using antibiotics.
- Never share or use leftover antibiotics.
- Prevent infections by regularly washing hands, preparing food hygienically, avoiding close contact with sick people, practising safer sex, and keeping vaccinations up to date.
- Prepare food hygienically, following the WHO Five Keys to Safer Food (keep clean, separate raw and cooked, cook thoroughly, keep food at safe temperatures, use safe water and raw materials) and choose foods that have been produced without the use of antibiotics for growth promotion or disease prevention in healthy animals.(3)
Adhikari is a founder of publichealthglobe.com and a public health enthusiast aiming to create an impact on the community all across the globe. A true believer of Prevention is better than cure.