Ever wondered why the medicines you take sometimes do not work? You don't miss even a single dose and follow the doctor's instructions. But you don't get better.
One of the main reasons for medications not yielding desired results is antimicrobial resistance. ''It describes the situation when the drugs we use to treat patients who have infectious diseases do not work any longer. The bacteria will infect the patients and make them sick, despite the fact that we give antibiotics for treatment,'' said Till T. Bachmann, deputy head and reader in personalised medicine in infectious diseases at the University of Edinburg, the UK in an exclusive interaction with THE WEEK recently.
Experts say that by 2050, there will be more deaths by antimicrobial resistance than by cancer. ''It's like a tsunami in terms of healthcare challenge,'' said Dr Taslimarif Saiyed, CEO and director, C-Camp, NCBS, Bengaluru. ''Antimicrobial resistance related deaths and casualties among adults and neonatals are significantly under reported. Whatever data you receive, you may want to multiply it. It's a huge multiplication,'' he added.
How does antimicrobial resistance turn to be life threatening? Even a urinary tract infection can sometimes lead to sepsis. Currently, urinary infections are treated in a trial and error manner. The doctor prescribes an antibiotic. The patient takes it for a few days. If it doesn't work, the doctor comes to the conclusion that the patient has a resistant bacteria and he changes the medicine. "Meanwhile, the bacteria infecting the urinary tract may get into the blood stream and cause sepsis. It's a serious issue,'' said Bachmann. ''In sepsis, there is a famous figure. It says, from the onset of septic shock, every hour of inappropriate antibiotic therapy means loss of 7 per cent of patients,'' he added.
Microbial resistance is becoming a major healthcare challenge. Data collected by WHO from 77 countries as part of its Global Gonococcal Antimicrobial Surveillance Programme (WHO GASP) show that Gonorrhea, one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, is untreatable. Neisseria Gonorrhea, the bacteria that cause the infection, are particularly smart, says Dr Teodora Wi, Medical Officer, Human Reproduction, at the World Health Organization (WHO). ''Every time we use a new class of antibiotics to treat the infection, the bacteria evolve to resist them,'' he says. ''Older and cheaper antibiotics'' have little or no effect on Gonorrhea. Even countries, where new antibiotics for Gonorrhea are available, find it hard to combat the infection. “These cases may just be the tip of the iceberg, since systems to diagnose and report untreatable infections are lacking in lower-income countries where Gonorrhea is actually more common,” says Wi.
Developing newer antibiotics is the need of the hour. Better diagnostic tests can also go a long way towards tackling antimicrobial resistance. Patients should exercise caution while taking antibiotics. Studies indicate that about 50 per cent of the antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary. Remember, taking too many antibiotics can make you more susceptible to have a resistant infection in future.