'Use antibiotics with caution'

PUTRAJAYA: Doctors and patients in Malaysia have been warned not to misuse antibiotics as the problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) continues to rise globally.

The wide use of antibiotics has caused bacteria to be more resistant towards drugs, and this has killed 700,000 people worldwide this year, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.

A global AMR study conducted this year showed that globally, 700,000 deaths are related to AMR every year. If this is not controlled, the death toll is expected to rise up to 10 million by 2050.

"Due to globalisation and the free movement of people, food and medicine, no country can isolate itself from this problem. For example, one type of antimicrobial resistance was found in New Delhi, India as well as in China. In one or two years it has spread across the world.

"The message here is very clear. Do not take antibiotics if you do not need it," said Dr Subramaniam, at the launch of National Antibiotics Awareness Week 2016 campaign at the Putrajaya Hospital here.

A Health Ministry survey conducted two years ago revealed that 26 per cent of patients who go to government clinics with a sore throat are given antibiotics.

For private general practitioners, 61 per cent of patients are given antibiotics.

"There is this thinking among the people that if you have a fever and the doctor does not give you antibiotics, then he's not doing his job.

"Because of this culture, doctors fall into the unfortunate trap. They must resist this and be guided by normal, established protocols," said Dr Subramaniam.

On the usage of antibiotics on chicken, Dr Subramaniam said it is a challenge to get farmers to change the practice.

"This has been going on in the industry for a long time. It can be reversed, but it requires farmers to restructure their farming system and this requires capital investment.

"The usage of antibiotics on chicken is to prevent infections. But if they can improve the level of hygiene in farms, there will be less chances of infection. But it requires a lot of investment," he added.