When we are sick, we expect medicines prescribed by our doctor to work. However, nowadays that’s always not the case. The efficacy of one of the most important drug types, antibiotics, is under serious threat.
Recent statistics suggests that as many as two million antibiotic-resistant infections are getting diagnosed just in the United States every year, out of which 23,000 are causing death. This is a big concern as antibiotics are the pillars on which modern medicine is based. These drugs are required during surgeries, cancer treatments, organ transplants and almost every other treatment procedure constituting modern medical science.
Studies conducted recently revealed that as many as 50% of men and one-third of women will develop cancer at some point in their lives. The majority of the cancer treatments used currently is known to weaken patients’ immune system, which automatically puts them at risk of developing an infection.
The country is currently experiencing an epidemic of diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. A large share of people affected by those conditions will need to undergo kidney transplants and dialysis. People undergoing organ transplants need to have medications that make their immune system weaker so that the transplanted organ is not rejected by the body. This leaves these patients at high risk of having infections.
Each year sees more than 50 million people in the US undergo surgery in hospitals. Also, many also undergo outpatient surgeries. If antibiotics stop working, patients will die of surgery-induced infections.
What’s most depressing is that the germs that are capable of mutating to negate the effects of antibiotics often emerge as the winner. For instance, staph infection, which one can get contaminated with after using shared gym equipment, earlier could be treated with a low cost oral antibiotic, but now may need IV antibiotics and a hospital trip for remission.
The majority of us believe that we know when we should use antibiotics. We think that antibiotics are needed when we feel extremely sick, irrespective of the reason behind the sickness. Most of us are not aware of the difference between viral and bacterial infections, and that viral infections cannot be cured with antibiotics. In fact, the majority of the common ailments like colds, flu are caused by viruses.
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Doctors are also responsible for making antibiotics less effective. They keep on prescribing strong antibiotics for minor health problems and this way force bugs to mutate and turn antibiotics resistant.
The health officials in Ireland seem to have taken a useful step to deal with this problem. The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), a government agency of the country, has decided to carry out a quality assurance review of antimicrobial stewardship at the country’s public hospitals.
In the first phase of this review, every public hospital will be asked to carry out self-assessments regarding the use of antibiotics and all other drugs linked to growing microbial resistance. Then, experts will be inspecting 16 hospitals for verifying all findings put forward by those assessments. Based on the findings, a common set of rules will be formed to be followed by hospitals all across the country.