Antibiotic resistance has become one of the biggest threats to health globally. It is rising to dangerously high levels in many parts of the world, compromising our ability to treat infectious diseases and undermining many advances in health and medicine.
This sobering fact is the driving force behind the National Antibiotic Awareness Week from 14 to 20 November. This campaign hopes to educate South Africans on the responsible use of antibiotics and to help raise awareness on the serious impact that antibiotic resistance can have on the treatment of disease, now and in the future.
Antibiotic resistance refers to the way in which bacteria are adapting and evolving to be more resistant to the effects of antibiotics. In other words the antibiotic was once able to kill off the bacteria and treat the infection but, due to development of resistance, that antibiotic has now become ineffective in treating the infection.
One of the hospitals at the forefront of the fight against antibiotic resistance is Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital in Cape Town. The hospital launched its antibiotic stewardship programme in 2011.
Over the last five years the hospital’s antibiotic stewardship programme has made considerable progress in mitigating the risks associated with antibiotic resistance. “The daily monitoring of patients by the multi-disciplinary team has led to an overall reduction of 25% in antibiotic usage, and a reduction in the infection rate,” says Marilyn Leadsom, infection prevention & occupational health nurse practitioner at Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital.
“It is clear that we are making a significant difference in helping to fight antibiotic resistance, and we hope that our antibiotic stewardship programme will continue to grow, becoming even more effective,” says Leadsom.
“The main objective of the programme is to study and assess the use of antibiotics in the hospital to ensure that the correct antibiotic is chosen and administered at the correct dose, duration and route of administration for the individual patient. Ultimately, antibiotic stewardship improves patient outcomes, reduces microbial resistance and decreases the spread of infections.”
“It goes without saying that a programme such as this requires constant attention by specialised medical professionals and this is why we formed an antibiotic stewardship committee comprised of doctors, nursing management, microbiologists and pharmacists from the outset,” Leadsom adds.
The committee meets regularly to discuss ways of reducing the impact of antibiotic resistance and to ensure that antibiotics are being used appropriately in the hospital setting. Pharmacists engage in daily clinical ward rounds and review patients’ antibiotics to ensure that they are being used correctly. They also ensure that cultures are done in order to identify the correct antibiotic to use in each specific case. Key interventions are monitored on a daily basis to ensure optimal and appropriate therapy for each patient. “Any related concerns raised are discussed with the doctors and microbiologists and appropriate interventions are then implemented,” says Maletje Griesel, senior pharmacist at Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital.
“It has been predicted that in 2050, an estimated 10 million people around the world may die of untreatable infections which are completely resistant to antibiotics. We are striving to slow down the rate at which bacteria becomes resistant to antibiotics and in doing so, hopefully we can avoid this prediction,” she notes.
Leadsom asserts that it is important to remember that antibiotic resistance cannot be fought by healthcare workers alone. She provides a few tips on how individuals can assist in the war against antibiotic resistance:
- Embrace a healthy lifestyle, through eating a balanced nutritious diet, getting enough exercise, and practicing good hygiene. Through staying healthy, you can prevent many infectious bacterial illnesses and thereby avoid the need for antibiotics.
- Cleaning your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap in your home, office, school, gym and other places.
- Remember, antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections and not illnesses such as the common cold, flu, sore throats or runny noses, which are caused by viruses.
- Don’t demand antibiotics from your doctor when you do not have a bacterial infection and, if you do have a bacterial infection, ask your doctor whether taking an antibiotic is absolutely necessary.
- If it is medically necessary to take antibiotics, then take them exactly as prescribed by the doctor or pharmacist. Take them continuously and do not skip any doses.
- Do not ‘save’ antibiotics prescribed for one illness, to take them when you fall ill at a later date. Even if the illness seems the same, remember that many different infections may exhibit similar symptoms. This does not mean that the same antibiotic is appropriate for the treatment of illnesses with similar symptoms.
- Do not share your prescribed antibiotics with others – this can lead to misuse and fuel the development of antibiotic resistance. Remember that antibiotics are powerful drugs and can have negative side effects.
- Keep your vaccinations up to date.
- Educate family and friends about the risks associated with inappropriate and incorrect use of antibiotics and by doing so; we can all live healthier lives free from infection.
- Dr Tabie Greyling, infectious diseases specialist at Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital, emphasised that one should not hesitate to ask a healthcare professional caring for you if he or she has washed their hands. Remember, hand hygiene is the number one intervention that can curb the spread of infections.
Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville or Pieter Rossouw
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
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