World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2020
Handling antimicrobials with care
World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (18-24 November) is an annual event that raises awareness of the serious health issues of antimicrobials resistance and encourages people around the world to focus on handling antimicrobial with care. The objective of this week is to promote best practices among the general public, health workers and policy makers to prevent the continued emergence and spread of drug-resistant diseases.
World Antibiotic Awareness Week has been observed every November to raise our consciousness about antibiotic resistance. Antimicrobial resistance is one of the most crucial health hazards that we face worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antimicrobial resistance (AMR) ranks among the top 10 global public health threats. Worldwide, at least 700,000 deaths occur each year from drug-resistant infections. The threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) worldwide is being sped up day by day.
Following a stakeholder's consultation meeting in May 2020 organized by WHO, FAO and OIE, the scope of World Antibiotic Awareness Week was expanded, changing its focus from 'Antibiotics' to the more encompassing and inclusive term 'Antimicrobials'. The Tripartite Executive Committee has decided to fix the dates of the World Antimicrobial Resistance Week to 18-24 November each year, from 2020. They have taken a unified agenda to defeat this global public health threat. The slogan of this week for year 2020 is Antimicrobials: handle with care.
Antimicrobials--including antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, and antiparasitic--are drugs used to prevent and treat infections in humans, animals, and plants. Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) refers to the broad term antimicrobial resistance. The term includes all microorganisms that develop resistance to antimicrobial drugs. AMR occurs when bacteria and fungi such as germs develop the ability to defeat drugs designed to kill them. This means that germs are not killed and continue to grow. Because of drug resistance, antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs become ineffective and the infection becomes difficult or impossible to treat.
Antimicrobials are becoming increasingly ineffective as drug-resistance spreads globally, making it difficult to treat infections. The emergence and spread of drug-resistant microbes have led to the acquisition of new resistance mechanisms, leading to antimicrobial resistance, threatening our ability to treat common infections. AMR has the potential to affect people at any stage of life, as well as the healthcare, veterinary and agricultural industries.
Every year in the US, at least 2.8 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria or fungi or virus, and over 35,000 die as a result. The cost of AMR is important for national economies and their health systems because it affects the productivity of patients or their careers through longer hospital stays along with more expensive and intensive care.
There are many reasons of increasing antimicrobial resistance every day, globally. The possible causes of developing antibiotic resistance are: using antibiotics at less than the prescribed dosage, more than the prescribed amount, not finishing the entire regime, or using fake or low-quality drugs. Self- medication has also been cited as one of the major factors contributing to drug resistance, particularly with the use of antimicrobials.
Lack of awareness about the proper use of antibiotics is also the foremost causes of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics are the prescription-only medicines (POMs) that should not to be sold over the counter. Pharmacies are licensed only to dispense POMs against valid prescriptions obeying the applicable regulations. Many consumers in Bangladesh are not aware of this matter. Lack of consumers' awareness and poor enforcement by the government and regulatory bodies allows pharmacies selling POMs as over-the-counter drugs (OTC).
In our country unregulated use of antibiotics for livestock, fish and agriculture has increased at frightening rates. Antibiotic is a life-saving drug and recommended by the registered doctor only to treat diseases. Unfortunately, antibiotics are misused in the prevention or feeding process as a growth promoter of livestock. Uncontrolled use of antibiotics in livestock and fish also plays a major role in the risk of antibiotic resistance.
Physicians and pharmacists should strictly follow the specific guidelines on the use of antibiotics. Around 80 per cent people of Bangladesh live in rural area, where there is a high prevalence of quack doctors, who are very desperate in selling and prescribing of antibiotics rather than real physicians. But consumers have the right to be treated with antibiotics, followed by the specific guidelines on the use of antibiotics.
Awareness of all stakeholders regarding the risk of improper use of antibiotics is very urgent to combat this situation. If we cannot stop or reduce the irrational use of antimicrobials, we have every chance of moving towards 'post antibiotic era' where common infections may become incurable. Challenging the growing problem of resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines, all stakeholders should come forward to handle antimicrobials with care.
The writer is executive director, Voluntary Consumers Training and Awareness Society (VOCTA)