Last week, a World Health Organisation (WHO) report warns that we imminently face a crisis in treatment of common infections.
In a report titled The era of safe medicine is coming to an end, WHO notes that most common bacterial infections no longer respond to easily available antibiotics. Indeed, an infected scratch could become an everyday killer as antibiotics become increasingly useless. The report warns that the situation would be more deadly than the 80s Aids epidemic. The WHO Europe antimicrobial resistance adviser Dr Lo Fo Wong warns: “Everyone is potentially in danger.”
The report warns of growing antibiotic resistance in seven bacteria linked to diseases such as sepsis, diarrhoea, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and gonorrhea. These unfortunately are the diseases that contribute to most infections among children in our setting, and especially among those below five years. Pneumonia and diarrheal diseases are the first and second commonest killer and illness causing diseases among children in our setting. Without urgent action, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era in which common infections, which have been treatable for decades, can once again kill. Several specialists have called for restrictions on prescribing antibiotics for mild infections and incentives for drugs firms to produce new medicines.
It is true that to a large extent, resistance has been spread because drugs are being unnecessarily used for mild infections. Patients who do not adhere to prescribed antibiotics, or do not complete their treatment or share leftover prescriptions contribute to this increasing resistance. Countries need to respond even more aggressively than they have done to the HIV/AIDS crisis. Research money needs to be set aside towards a better understanding of resistance, development of new antibiotics and vaccines. We need to ensure each of our children get vaccinated against rotavirus, pneumonia and other infections currently covered in the routine immunization schedule. The government should provide these vaccines free to all children under one year, especially for pneumonia and diarrhoea.
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