Antibiotic resistance is becoming a deadly issue worldwide, as serious infections are becoming immune to common treatments, making them extremely difficult to manage. The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday that the problem is growing because of widespread misinterpretations about the issue.
When infections become immune to existing drugs, health experts are left scrambling for a way to treat the symptoms. When they can’t find a new method of treatment, minor injuries and infections can quickly develop into a very serious problem. The problem is increasing because the overuse and misuse of drugs is greatly speeding up resistance to treatment methods. This creates “superbugs”, which can be very deadly.
WHO Chief Margaret Chan said, “The rise of antibiotic resistance is a global health crisis. More and more governments recognize it as one of the greatest threats to health today."
Chan went on to say that worldwide drug resistance is reaching levels that are dangerously high. The problem can be particularly bad in sterile environments such as hospitals. In these environments, only the strongest and most deadly pathogens are able to survive.
Some experts are saying that the world could quickly develop into a post-antibiotic era, where even the most common infections could become deadly. With no way to treat these infections, diseases would run rampant.
Antibiotics are particularly important to premature infants, cancer patients and people undergoing surgery. Chan said that if the issue continues to increase in severity, modern medicine could be forever changed.
WHO recently conducted a survey asking 12 countries how they believe they can treat common colds and the flu. The results were alarming, as 64% of the respondents said, incorrectly, that antibiotics can be used to treat common colds and the flu. Antibiotics have no effect on these viruses. When antibiotics are misused in such a fashion, immunities build up, creating future issues.
The survey was conducted in Barbados, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, Sudan and Vietnam. Another alarming results was that 66% of respondents stated that there is not a risk of antibiotic resistance for individuals who take antibiotics as they have been prescribed. With doctors potentially over-prescribing these medications, this could also be a serious problem.
More so, nearly half of the respondents said that antibiotic resistance is only a problem for people who regularly take such drugs. In reality, people can gain a resistance through just one usage of the drug. Another issue was that more than a third of the survey respondents believed that stopping antibiotic treatment early was okay. This can cause serious complications, because uncompleted treatments can increase resistances and hurt patients’ recovery.
Indeed, the survey results overall showed that a change in behavior and education is needed throughout the world. Health experts are stressing that they cannot be taken for granted. While the medications do amazing things for the world, their misuse could lead to a major catastrophe.
For now, WHO is planning to address the issue by telling people to “handle antibiotics with care”.