Pretoria: South Africa has joined the call to raise awareness around the need to preserve the power of antibiotics through their appropriate and rational use.
Without effective antibiotics, a growing list of infections is becoming harder to treat, including pneumonia, urinary tract infections, tuberculosis and gonorrhoea or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Without urgent action, the world is headed for a ‘post-antibiotic era’ in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill patients, and the benefit of advanced medical treatment such as chemotherapy and major surgery will be lost.
“In South Africa, we are burdened with a triple threat of antibiotic resistance in the form of drug resistant tuberculosis (TB), HIV and antibiotic resistant bacteria. It is one of our greatest threats to preserving the significant health gains we have made in treating and preventing these diseases in the last five years,” said Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.
This comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has made a call to raise awareness during World Antibiotic Awareness Week of the need to use antibiotics appropriately.
A survey conducted by WHO and released during World Antibiotic Awareness Week, reveals that there is widespread public misunderstanding about antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of antibiotics. While this happens naturally, this is accelerated by the over-use and misuse of antibiotics, leading to record high levels of antibiotic resistance.
The survey found that two thirds of South African citizens thought that antibiotics are useful for common cold and flu, which do not respond to antibiotics as they are caused by viruses.
The Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy recently published the State of the World’s Antibiotics reports, which shows that consumption of antibiotics in South Africa is growing dramatically. This is driven by prophylaxis for HIV patients using cotrimoxazole, but also by the use of broad spectrum penicillin’s in the community and General Practitioner setting.
Minister Motsoaledi warned that this consumption represents signals there may be significant inappropriate use occurring in the community.
“In more than a quarter of cases, South Africa is seeing resistance to some of the most dangerous infectious organisms to commonly used antibiotics. Organisms that cause urinary tract infections in the community setting and skin infections are showing a 30% resistance to the common antibiotics used to treat them.”
The Minister said is not too late to reduce the impact of antibiotic resistance and all citizens have a part to play in preserving the effectiveness of antibiotics.
“By reducing the spread of infections and changing how we produce, prescribe and use these medicines, we can reduce the impact and limit the spread of antibiotic resistance,” said Minister Motsoaledi.
The Lancet Series on Effective Antimicrobials, which is expected to be launched on 18 November 2015, estimates that 214 000 neonatal deaths occur due to serious infections caused by antibiotic resistant organisms.
Low and middle income countries such as South Africa often experience challenges in providing access to life saving antibiotics in the most rural underserviced areas.
“Improving access to these underserviced rural areas could avert 445 000 community acquired pneumonia deaths in children younger than 5 years across the world,” the report estimates.
In South Africa, the impact of prevention of infection through childhood vaccines has been demonstrated, in particular the prevention afforded by the pneumococcal conjugate and rotovirus vaccines.
Overall child mortality rates have declined substantially in the past five years from diseases related to the two vaccines specifically diarrhoea with dehydration and pneumonia as well as hospitalisation and deaths from the two illnesses.
SOURCE: SOUTH AFRICAN OFFICIAL NEWS