Growing concern over superbugs

The Health Ministry is concerned that patients infected with superbugs could die or at the least be in hospital for a long time.
PHOTO: Growing concern over superbugs

KUALA LUMPUR - Antibiotics are becoming less effective because bacteria are mutating and the Health Ministry is concerned that patients infected with these superbugs could die or at the least be in hospital for a long time.

The ministry's National Surveillance on Antibiotic Resistance report showed an increasing resistance by acinetobacter baumanii to the antibiotic meropenem, from 47.7 per cent in 2007 to 58.3 per cent last year.

That means almost 60 per cent of patients infected with this drug-resistant bacteria cannot be treated with meropenem.

They were only responding to colistin, the last line of antibiotics and one step away from being pan drug-resistant where no antibiotics would work.

Health director-general Datuk Seri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said doctors should not overprescribe antibiotics despite pressure from patients to do so.

He said doctors should adhere to the guidelines and administer to their patients based on clinical judgment.

Doctors should also educate their patients regarding their illness and make them understand that viral infections could not be treated with antibiotics, he said.

As for the patients, Dr Noor Hisham said, "Don't pressure doctors to prescribe anti­biotics and don't self-prescribe because this could lead to dire consequences."

Instead, other preventive measures should be considered, such as immunisation, better hand hygiene, food safety and improved sanitation, he said.

The ministry also reported that strepto­coccus pneumonia's resistance to the anti­biotic erythromycin increased from 21 per cent in 2007 to 39 per cent last year.

Klebsiella pneumoniae has also recorded an increased resistance each year to the cephalosporin family of antibiotics.

For instance, its resistance to cefotaxime increased from 22.1 per cent in 2008 to 27 per cent last year and its resistance to ceftazidime went up from 22.3 per cent in 2008 to 24.2 per cent last year.

Dr Noor Hisham said surveillance on the carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriacea (CRE) superbug showed that the number of infections increased from 65 cases in 2012 to 150 cases last year, with the mortality rate rising from 9 per cent in 2012 to 10 per cent last year.

CRE is a type of gram-negative bacteria resistant to carbapenem antibiotics and this affects patient recovery because the antibiotics are often the last line of defence against gram-negative infections.