Fight superbug threat, take your antibiotics responsibly: Doctors Filed on January 26, 2020 | Last updated on January 26, 2020 at 05.13 am
superbug, doctors, antibiotics


An estimated 33,000 people die in Europe every year from such drug-resistant bacteria, according to EU data.

The world is running out of options to fight drug-resistant bacteria - the superbugs - that kill tens of thousands people every year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned in recent reports. For UAE experts, it's a wake-up call and a reminder: Stop antibiotic overuse.

Dr Alai Taggu, specialist for critical care medicine at Aster Hospital-Mankhool, said:

"Unlike the golden era of antibiotics of '30s and '60s, currently, we don't have many new molecules in the pipeline to combat the multi-drug-resistant (MDR) superbugs. And misuse of antibiotics is one of the primary reasons leading to antimicrobial resistance."

Discovered in the 1920s, antibiotics have saved tens of millions of lives by defeating bacterial diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and meningitis. Now, a different scenario is emerging.

An estimated 33,000 people die in Europe every year from such drug-resistant bacteria, according to EU data, while the US places its death toll at around 35,000.

Dr Aamerah Shah, a primary care specialist at American Hospital, said: "We are almost on the brink of pre-antibiotics era, with the lack of novel agents in antimicrobial drugs and with the emerging resistance in microorganisms."

According to the WHO, there is a decline in private investment and a lack of innovation in the development of new antibiotics. This compromises efforts to combat drug-resistant infection.

Misuse of antibiotics

For people with serious bacterial infections, antibiotics often save lives; however, people have started using them far too often - even when they're not needed, the experts lamented.

This then causes a resistance towards antibiotics. Using antibiotics when they are not needed gives bacteria "a chance to change".

Experts now worry that there would soon be infections that won't respond to any antibiotics.

People suffering from infections caused by superbugs often have to be treated in the hospital with many different antibiotics. If no antibodies can fight these infections, some can even possibly die from them.

Dr Mohammad Shahid Alam, an internal medicine specialist at Zulekha Hospital, said:

"Bloodstream infection is a major cause of morbidity and mortality despite the availability of potent antimicrobial therapy and advances in supportive care.

"Organisms, such as bacteremia due to gram-negative bacilli, pose serious therapeutic problems because of its increasing incidence of multidrug resistance."

Call to action

Dr Alam said the global healthcare industry need to exert dedicated efforts to address the threat.

"We need an antimicrobial stewardship programme to combat antibiotic resistance which refers to systematic measurement and coordinated interventions designed to promote optimal use of antimicrobial agents," he added.

Clinicians can also help in educating patients on when antimicrobials are needed and when they are not, Dr Alam said.

"Antibiotic resistance can be overcome by proper antibiotic guidelines, appropriate use of antibiotics, patient education, government funding, and cooperation of pharmaceutical companies," he added.


Sandhya D'Mello

Journalist. Period. My interests are Economics, Finance and Information Technology. Prior to joining Khaleej Times, I have worked with some leading publications in India, including the Economic Times.

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