Global spread of resistant microorganisms a nightmare

PUTRAJAYA - A powerful antibiotic to treat serious bacterial infections is no longer effective in six out of 10 patients as a result of years of widespread abuse of antibiotics in the country.

Citing an example, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the antibiotic carbapenem used to fight Acinetobacter baumanii, a bacteria that causes dangerous secondary infections in hospitals, was no longer effective in 57.4 per cent of cases last year, a drastic increase from 35 per cent in 2005.

"Likewise, the microorganism Streptococcus pneumoniae that causes pneumonia, among many others, showed resistance in 30.9 per cent of the time in 2010, up from 21.9 per cent in 2003," he added when launching the National Campaign on the Containment of Antimicrobial Resistance or AMR here yesterday.

Carbapenems are among the antibiotics of last resort for many bacterial infections. There are no new antibiotics in the forseeable future to combat this resistance, and the worldwide spread of the resistant gene is now considered a nightmare for the medical community.

The national campaign to curb the misuse of antibiotics will involve both the private and public sectors although it is far easier to control the practice of government doctors, said Datuk Dr Azmi Shapie, director of the Medical Development Division in the Health Ministry.

Speaking at a media workshop after the launch, he said: "AMR is an extremely serious global problem because it means that many infections are no longer easily treated, leading to prolonged suffering and greater risk of death for patients.

"In addition, the cost of healthcare increases because more expensive drugs are needed, in addition to longer treatment durations."

In 90 per cent of cases, antibiotics were of no use against ailments like coughs, colds or sore throats as these were mainly viral, rather than bacterial, said Datuk Dr Christopher Lee, head of the infectious disease unit at the Sungai Buloh Hospital in Selangor,

He also said doctors should not hastily prescribe antibiotics while patients should not be quick to demand for them.

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