I recently watched an interview on CNN where the issue on discussion was of microbial resistance to antibiotics. It was projected that by 2050, antibiotic resistance will account for 10 million global deaths in a year. Compare this figure with the number of cancer deaths by 2050, which is 8.2 million deaths, then you will begin to see the true picture. Of these 10 million deaths from antibiotics, 4.1 million will be from Africa, with only Asia having a worse figure of 4.7 million deaths.

So what is antibiotic resistance? 

Antibiotic resistance is a situation where drugs that normally treat infections are no longer able to because the causative organisms have literally devised a means of remaining active despite therapy with such antibiotic. This means that ordinary infections that are easily treated with antibiotics will become difficult to treat.

What causes antibiotic resistance?

One of the factors that have been blamed for antibiotic resistance is Abuse. In Nigeria for example, people use antibiotics a lot especially when it is not necessary. It is common practice for example for people to use Flagyl, Tetracycline, or Doxycycline when they have diarrhoea. These are over-the-counter drugs that you can easily run to the drug store next to you to purchase. Unfortunately, using these antibiotics for treating diarrhoea is simply an abuse. This may challenge your beliefs but it remains the truth.

Another common misuse of antibiotics in Nigeria is in cases of sore throat. Many people often use Septrin in treating sore throat and this is not necessary as it is not the ideal treatment choice.

Why? You may ask.

Antibiotics are not recommended for the treatment of acute diarrhoea and sore throat because the main organisms causing most cases of diarrhoea are viruses and not bacteria; and antibiotics only treat bacterial infections. So you may ask what the heck, since the drug will not kill me, why not use it. The problem is actually about my opening statement – abuse of antibiotics is the major factor responsible for antibiotic resistance. When you use antibiotics too often especially when it isn’t necessary, microbes tend to develop resistance to the antibiotics so that when it becomes necessary to use them, they will no longer be effective.

For cases of simple diarrhoea, all you need is to stay hydrated and eat well. You will realise that the symptoms will run its course and relieve you. Same is applicable for sore throat.

The truth is that the blame is not only on us. According to the report used in the CNN interview, the abuse of antibiotics can be partly blamed on doctors too. I know you may have had the experience of being prescribed antibiotics by a doctor for acute diarrhoea but that a doctor prescribed it does not make it right. Cases of diarrhoea will only need other interventions – and not necessarily antibiotic interventions – when there is bleeding, severe vomiting, severe weakness and dehydration, significantly elevated body temperature, on-going pregnancy and so on.

This information is important so that we can all do our part in reducing to the barest minimum the problem of antibiotic resistance. It is already a problem and it is responsible for the deaths of many already which why it is expedient that Nigerians take heed and avoid the abuse of these medications.

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