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Expert: Misuse of antibiotics during the coronavirus pandemic could be harmful

Taking antimicrobials without a prescription will not only promote antimicrobials resistance but can also be associated with significant adverse drug effects, high cost and complications.

By: Express News Service | Chandigarh | November 25, 2020 11:24:29 am
Antibiotics, medicinesAntimicrobial resistance (AMR) happens when bacteria, fungi, viruses develop the ability to defeat the medications designed to kill them. (Representational)

The World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW, 18 to 24 November) was observed to increase awareness of global antimicrobial resistance (AMR) to avoid further emergence and spread of drug-resistant infections.

Dr Shivani Juneja, Attended Consultant, Pharmacology, Fortis Hospital Mohali said, “The misuse of antibiotics during the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to the accelerated spread of antimicrobial resistance. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, not by bacteria, and therefore, anti-bacterial should not be used to prevent or treat viral infections, unless bacterial infections are also present. Hence, taking antimicrobials without a prescription will not only promote antimicrobials resistance but can also be associated with significant adverse drug effects, high cost and complications.”

Dr Juneja added that antimicrobials, which include antibiotics, are sold without prescription by healthcare professionals in most parts of the world. The scale and effect of this practice are unknown. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) happens when bacteria, fungi, viruses develop the ability to defeat the medications designed to kill them. Thus, making common infections harder to treat and thereby increasing the risk of spread and severity of the disease.

Antimicrobials are agents that are crucial tools for treating diseases in humans, animals and plants. Misuse and overuse of antimicrobials are key factors leading to the development of drug-resistant infections. Poor medical prescribing practices, over-the-counter use, and patient adherence to treatment also contribute to AMR. Often they are incorrectly prescribed for those illnesses or taken without proper medical oversight. “We need to be watchful and encourage best practices among ourselves to slow down the development of AMR and the spread of drug-resistant infections.”

Meanwhile, PGIMER, Chandigarh achieved a major milestone in its battle against antimicrobial resistance with the release of the Antimicrobial Policy for Management of Infections in Adults. The policy document was released by Prof Jagat Ram, director, PGIMER, to mark the Antimicrobial Awareness Week. “Antimicrobial resistance has been a big concern across the world, including our country, and antimicrobial overuse and abuse is the major factor,” said Prof Ram. The director recalled that prescription of antibiotics before any surgery used to be a routine affair but the increased awareness about antimicrobial resistance has made a sea change in prescription practices.

Prof Ram commended the efforts of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Committee (AMSC) of the institute for bringing out a comprehensive document and hoped that this will further strengthen the resolve of the institute to promote appropriate use of antibiotics. Guidelines like the present one go a long way in establishing a culture of using appropriate diagnostics for therapy and training of healthcare staff on best practices for antimicrobial use, he added.

Prof Nusrat Shafique, convener of the AMSC, said that the document will be shared on different platforms and will be available freely for other hospitals to modify according to their conditions.

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