Each November, the World Antibiotics Awareness Week (WAAW) presents an opportunity to educate the public, health professionals, and policymakers on the dangers of antibiotic resistance and ways to combat it at the local, national and global level. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria become resistant to the overuse of antibiotics. Antibiotic or Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) has been called one of the “greatest threats” to human health with significant public health consequences unless we all come together and work to save remaining antibiotics. Overuse of antibiotics in humans and animal causes AMR that is now a “Major Public Health Crisis”.

Scientists have warned that the “world is on the cusp of a “post-antibiotic era”, with extremely resistant bacteria or superbugs. An estimated 700,000 deaths occur each year worldwide due to AMR. Antibiotic-resistant infections will kill an estimated 300 million people worldwide - more than the number who currently die from cancer - by 2050 unless proper and urgent action is taken by all of us. The total estimated costs for the management of AMR infections would spiral to $100 trillion.

Antimicrobials are also used selectively in poultry, plant agriculture and commercial fish and seafood farming. Contamination of human food of animal origin (meat and milk), with drug-resistant bacteria, may be transferred to consumers. With a rise of bacteria resistant to antibiotics in the last decade, many bacterial infections are becoming resistant to the most commonly prescribed antibiotic treatments. Every time a person takes antibiotics, sensitive bacteria are killed, but resistant ones may be left to grow and multiply. Repeated and improper uses of antibiotics are the primary causes of the increase in drug-resistant bacteria in human and animal health.

Misuse of antibiotics jeopardizes the usefulness of essential drugs. Decreasing inappropriate antibiotic use is the best way to control AMR. Children are of particular concern because they have the highest rates of antibiotic use. Unnecessary antibiotics have to be curtailed urgently!

In Pakistan, antibiotic use is alarmingly high both in humans and animals. Approximately 70-90% of patients for viral URTIs are prescribed antibiotics unnecessarily that are mostly self-limiting. Resistant infections due to these “superbugs” are causing thousands of deaths and hospitalization each year.

World Antibiotic Awareness Week aims to increase awareness of at global level about antibiotic resistance and to encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policymakers to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance. A Global Action Plan (GAP) to tackle the growing problem of resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines was endorsed at the sixty-eighth World Health Assembly in May 2015. One of the key objectives of the plan is to improve awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance through effective communication, education and training.

On the occasion of 2020 World Antibiotic Awareness Week (18-24 November 2020), we must resolve to act urgently by taking steps that will curtail antibiotic misuse. AMR is a global health issue and Pakistan is raising awareness on the need to preserve the power of antibiotics through appropriate use during this week and beyond. It is not too late to reduce the impact of AMR and we want to highlight that all healthcare professionals and the public have a part to play in preserving the effectiveness of antibiotics. By reducing the spread of infections and changing how we produce, prescribe and use these medicines, we can reduce the impact and limit the spread of antibiotic resistance. That is why we are celebrating World Antibiotic Awareness Week. We must join National and Global efforts to reduce antibiotic use and help to prevent spread of “superbugs” and save lives! Please join in this grand effort by participating in the many such activities, as this matters most to all of us and to our children’s future!

PROF. EJAZ A. KHAN,

Islamabad.