Ways to avoid unnecessary antibiotics
Antibiotic Resistance that forms part of Antimicrobial Resistance is the ability of bacteria to change its form and resist the effect of medication from working against them. Marking World Antibiotics Awareness Week at the International Livestock Research Institute last week, Grace Wachira gathered from experts ways we can lead lives with little or no antibiotics
Practice good animal husbandry
Antibiotics have, for a long time, been used and are still being used in livestock rearing. They were originally given to animals to boost their growth. Eric Fevre, Professor of Veterinary Infectious Diseases at the Institute of Infection and Global Health, notes that people can reduce overuse of antibiotics by just checking their animals’ hygiene. “You could clean up their shed and that could go a long way in production compared to medicines and boosters,” he said.
Go for doctor’s prescription
Prof Fevre also says that when sick, one should seek medical help. “Dr Google cannot prescribe medicine. Go to a hospital and get checked and as you do so, inform the doctors of previous medicine you have been taking, so they can give you a stronger drug,” he said. He advises against buying over the counter antibiotics.
Go easy on them
Over the years, bacteria have evolved to become stronger and adapt to certain strains of antibiotics, hence it is important to go easy on the use of antibiotics. Bacteria with a mutation allowing them to survive will live on to reproduce. They will then pass this trait to their offspring, which will be a fully resistant generation. Several studies have demonstrated that patterns of antibiotic usage greatly affect the number of resistant organisms which develop.
Take vaccination seriously
Diseases such as cholera and typhoid can occur without events such as flooding. Sam Kariuki of the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) notes that some pandemics are as a result of slow shift in resistance.
“Cholera, for example, has become dynamic and caused a lot of embarrassment. Prevention is indeed better than cure, so going for immunisation goes a long way in preventing infection,” he says.
Complete your dose
Prof Fevre notes that failing to finish given dosages causes resistance in the body. “The medics know why they give you a certain amount. You should finish your drugs even after the ailment has worn off,” he says, noting that most people stop medication once they feel better. “It only gives bacteria in the body time to mutate and develop resistance,” he cautions.
Do not use previous prescriptions
Dr Loice Ochieng’ of the University of Nairobi says a spot check would reveal many people have antibiotics at home. “We have them in a special container or on a specified shelf for medicines,” she says, noting that in homesteads, sharing medicine and using another person’s prescription is not strange. “But that builds resistance in the body and gives medics a tough time when diagnosing and prescribing medicine,” she says.
Let viral infections trail off
Some viral infections do not need antibiotics to treat. “Coughs and colds are common virus-related diseases that do not necessarily need strong antibiotics to cure. The body can fight them off. Exposure to antibiotics every now and then is hazardous to the body’s natural immune system,” Dr Ochieng’ explains.
Limit your intake
The human body has 10 times more bacteria than the number of human cells in our body. “As such, using antibiotics gets rid of both healthy and bad bacteria and destroy the optimum environment for the healthy bacteria,” Dr Ochieng’ cautions.
Get rid of your medicine stock
Look out for expired medicine and discard them appropriately. “Dispose medicines correctly. The best way would be to return them to the pharmacies or hospitals to avoid polluting the environment,” Prof Fevre noted. If not done correctly, it will pollute the environment by getting into the soil and water leading to gradual growth of resistance to antibiotics.
Keep up with information about antibiotics
Research by the World Health Organisation together with the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Organisation for Animal Health, shows deaths from infections resistant to common antibiotics, antivirals and anti-parasitic drugs could increase more than ten-fold to 10 million deaths annually by 2050. It will have beaten cancer by 1.5 million.