Superbugs pose dire threat – health officials

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One health official believes that the indiscriminate use of antibiotics could see life heading back to “the dark ages” as bugs become more resistant to the drugs.
The dire warning came from Alfred Athill, the director of Pharmaceutical Services, Ministry of Health, who was speaking on OBSERVER AM about the observance of the UN-designated World Antibiotic Awareness Week.
Athill’s pronouncement may sound dramatic but it’s a feeling shared by the U.N. which states that the world is heading for a future where minor infections and injuries could once again lead to death because of antimicrobial resistance.
This is the ability of a microorganism – like bacteria, viruses, and some parasites – to stop an antimicrobial – such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials – from working against it. As a result, standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others. The U.N. notes that no one or nation is safe in such a scenario.
Bringing it back to these shores, Athill said he believes that the abuse of antibiotics is also occurring here. He added that as director of Pharmaceutical Services he is also the chief drug inspector of a board of inspectors, giving him a unique vantage point.
“In our discourse, in terms of our inspection processes, we normally find persons arbitrarily importing antibiotics from anywhere, and this is done on a regular basis. When you have a dialogue with the persons as to the reasons why they’re doing this you generally get the expression, ‘well, whenever I feel something coming I take the antibiotics, and I feel better’ or ‘whenever I have a pain I take the antibiotics, and I feel better.’”
But according to Athill, that could all be the individual’s perception and not the reality. It is that type of abuse, he stated, that leads to antimicrobial resistance worldwide.
“We’re going to be going back – and I don’t want to put it in a way to scare people but at least to let people start thinking and be more responsible – to the dark ages, where you had things like the plague and other issues that basically wiped out vast numbers of the population.”
According to Athill, such a scenario could become reality much sooner than expected.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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