ISLAMABAD - Misuse of antibiotics is the most urgent threat to public health as it will lead to illnesses that were once easily treatable with antibiotics, to become untreatable, health experts said on Friday.  National Institute of Health (NIH), Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination in collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO) and PIMS hospital organized an awareness walk here in connection with AMR awareness campaign.

Speaking on the occasion, Assistant Professor and Consultant Infectious Diseases Dr Nasim Akhtar said that antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria develops the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. When bacteria becomes resistant, antibiotics cannot fight them, leading to dangerous infections. “When antibiotics fail to work, the consequences are longer-lasting illnesses, more doctor visits or extended hospital stays, and the need for more expensive and toxic antibiotics. In some cases, the antibiotic-resistant infections can lead to serious disability or even death,” Dr Nasim added.

As per WHO estimates, antimicrobial resistance is expected to cause 10 million deaths in the next 35 years. The estimated cost of management will be US$ 100 trillion by 2050 if nothing is done to reverse the trend. She added that, all the stakeholders including Government, healthcare professionals, media and advocacy bodies, will have to play their role to increase the awareness about misuse and overuse of antibiotics which is one of the biggest health challenges of modern era. Dr Altaf Hussain, Assistant professor ENT at PIMS said, said that antibiotics are not effective against viral infections like the common cold, flu, most sore throats, bronchitis, and many sinus and ear infections.

Widespread use of antibiotics for these illnesses is an example of how overuse of antibiotics can promote the spread of antibiotic resistance. Smart use of antibiotics is key to controlling the spread of resistance, he said. He also added that in Pakistan around 88% rate of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions are for self-limiting Upper Respiratory Tract infections. Dr Altaf stressed that people should only use antibiotics when prescribed by a certified health professional and to always take the full prescription, even if you feel better, because not completing the prescribed dosage will help bacteria to become antibiotic resistant.

The growing problem of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) remains a serious challenge in the world, resulting in an alarming increase in the burden of infections in masses due to multi-resistant organisms. Federal Minister for National Health Services Regulations and Coordination (NHSRC), Aamir Mehmood Kiyani, on the occasion of AMR awareness week said that AMR containment is a major priority of government and also has been has included in national public health agenda.  The government has endorsed the Global Action Plan for AMR developed by the WHO and is committed to implement strong program for containment of AMR in Pakistan, he said.

The minister added, aligning to the country’s need and global commitment, the government has designated National Focal Point for AMR for human health and notified a multi-sectoral AMR oversight committee to develop various technical and policy documents. The statement issued said, a national AMR strategic framework has been developed in Pakistan with “One Health” approach. This framework has been developed through a consultative process and is in line with the five strategic objectives of the WHO Global Action Plan for AMR.

The increasing prevalence of resistance to broad spectrum Antimicrobial medicines to different microbe is reported from all over the world, which has significant impact on human health, statement added. The direct consequences of infection with resistant microorganisms are severe with consequence of longer illness, prolonged hospital stay, loss of patient protection undergoing surgical and other medical invasive procedures thereby resulting in increased mortality and health care costs.  AMR is cross cutting and affects all areas of health and other sectors and has an overall impact on the society as a whole.  The statement also said that NIH has been enrolled in WHO Global Antimicrobial Surveillance System (GLASS) and are setting up sentinel surveillance for AMR using GLASS protocol.

Pakistan is also among the few countries implementing Tricycle Project which is aimed at integrated trans-sectorial surveillance system for bacterial resistance to antibiotics on a global basis, said the statement.