Following World Antibiotic Awareness Week (12-18 November), pharmaceutical firm Pfizer kicked off a campaign to fight Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). The company is working with health industry professionals as well as the general public to join them in their “War Against Superbugs.”
It is important to fight AMR as resistance towards antibiotics in bacteria could pose a threat to the health and welfare of not just humans, but animals and plants as well. This problem will affect the fields of healthcare, veterinary and agriculture (and the food industry by extension), in any country. Thus, it really is one of the world’s most critical public health problems.
As stated by YB Dr Lee Boon Chye, Deputy Health Minister of Malaysia in his speech during the launching event, “Without effective antimicrobials, we are in danger of returning to the ‘pre-antibiotic era’, with potentially devastating effect on the health and welfare of both humans and animals. It is therefore a shared responsibility to preserve the efficacy of these invaluable drugs. The multi-sector harmonisation of strategies and measures to address the challenge of AMR are highly necessary.”
Why Is AMR Dangerous?
Antiobitic resistance spells disaster for humanity when bacteria start developing higher resistance against antibiotics. In Malaysia, it has been found that a growing number of bacteria now have higher resistance rates against antibiotics, some as much as 61 per cent! What this means is that there is a 61 percent possibility that any antibiotics you take to treat an illness might not be as effective as it should be.
Globally, 700,000 people die because of AMR, according to a review on microbial resistance in 2016. During that year, 490,000 people developed multi-drug resistant TB, while the fight against HIV and malaria becomes more difficult due to AMR. The World Health Organization as well as medical experts agree that if no action is taken, AMR might cause as many as 10 million deaths per year by 2050.
Said Datuk Dr Christopher Lee, Head of Infectious Diseases, Ministry of Health Malaysia & Hospital Sungai Buloh, “AMR can affect anyone, of any age, in any country. It occurs when pathogens change and find ways to resist the effects of antibiotics. The pathogens survive, grow and spread their resistance. This process of adaptation leads to AMR. If no solution is found, the consequences of AMR could be devastating. Minor infections and injuries could become life-threating, and serious infections such as pneumonia could become impossible to treat. Further, many routine medical procedures could be too risky to perform because of the risk of becoming infected while in hospital by a multi-drug resistant pathogen.”
Meanwhile, Associate Professor Dr Syafinaz Amin Nordin, Secretary of Malaysian Society of Infectious Diseases and Chemotherapy called for caution when dispensing drugs, including for livestock.
“Without effective antibiotics, the success of major surgery and cancer chemotherapy would be compromised. AMR also increases the cost of healthcare with lengthier stays in hospitals and more intensive care required. Hence, it is critical to encourage more appropriate use of new and existing antibiotics, including more judicious use of the drugs in livestock,” said Dr Syafinaz.
Pfizer Aims To Slow The Threat of AMR
In order to address the problem of AMR, Pfizer, as one of the leading providers of anti-infective medicines, is taking several steps while working closely with the infectious disease community. This includes supporting education for both healthcare professionals and the general public on AMR. Their ATLAS program, which features the Antimicrobial Testing Leadership and Surveillance database, provides free access to critical data on the efficacy of various antibiotic treatments and emerging resistance patterns in more than 70 countries. Other than that, they are also focusing on global policy leadership, offering more anti-infective medicine, and applying responsible manufacturing practices to minimise the impact on human health and the environment.
What We Can Do To Combat Antibiotic Resistance
As consumers, we can play our part in fighting AMR or antibiotic resistance. Pfizer recommends the following to help prevent the spread of AMR:-
- Resist from taking medicine, especially antibiotics, unless you need them. One example is taking antibiotics to treat the common cold, which is often caused by a virus rather than bacteria.
- If you are prescribed antibiotics by your doctor, make sure to take them exactly as instructed, right down to the time period.
- Finish the course of the medicine and be sure not to miss any sessions or doses. You should also not take medicines prescribed for someone else.
- Keep updated on your vaccinations to reduce your chances of catching an infection that might need to be treated with an antimicrobial.
As individuals, we all need to play our part in ensuring that the community as a whole will not be threatened by infectious diseases that can be avoided.