By Adeyemi Sylvester
Antibiotics were the wonder drugs of the 20th century because of their ability to kill and inhibit bacterial growth. In the pre-antibiotic era, the treatment of infectious diseases in human and animals was almost impossible. Besides the use of herbal medicines, there was no way out of the death sentence. That was until 1928, which marked the beginning of the antibiotic era when Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin from the mold penicillium. After this breakthrough in medicine, came the emergence of antibiotics.
Resistance to antibiotics could either be natural due to inherent characteristics or acquired when bacteria undergo evolutionary changes that transform their cells. These changes that lead to bacterial resistance to antibiotics are caused by both bacterial and human factors.
CAUSES OF ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE
Primary causes of antibiotic resistance include wrong dosage, inappropriate prescription, inaccurate regimen, mechanical ventilation, multiple underlying diseases, poor hand hygiene.
In animals, antibiotics are used at subtherapeutic doses to promote growth. At subtherapeutic doses, bacterial population develops resistant strains. In research studies resistant bacteria can be transmitted from animals to humans in three ways: by consuming animal products (milk, etc.) from close or direct contact with animals or other humans, or through the environment. In the first pathway, food preservation methods can help eliminate, decrease, or prevent the growth of bacteria in some food classes.
ROLE OF PHARMA SECTOR IN ANTIBIOTIC DEVELOPMENT
The pharma sector undoubtedly plays a vital role in developing newer medicines as resistance emerge. Since 1945, newer antibiotic were being discovered to compete with the evolving bacterial population. According to an article published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases in January 2009, only 5 of the biggest pharma companies –GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, AstraZeneca, Merck and Pfizer still had antibacterial discovery programmes in 2008. This is because of the commercial impact it has on the companies. The return on investment is poor and treatment of bacterial infection is usually short course regimen so patronage begins to reduce as soon as the infection is cured. That’s why companies have stopped developing antibiotics.
However, the launch of every antibiotic has been and will be followed by resistance in the targeted bacteria. Therefore, there is a constant need to develop new agents to keep up with the acquisition of resistance among pathogenic bacteria.
As a way to encourage drug-development, private-public partnership should be embraced to curtail financial burden of obtaining newer antibiotics.
GLOBAL ACTION PLAN AGAINST ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE
There have been increasing public calls for global collective action to address the threat. In 2014 WHO released preventive strategies to tackle resistance
The public can help tackle resistance by:
- Using antibiotics only when prescribed by a health professional
- Completing the full prescription, even if they feel better
- Never sharing antibiotics with others or using leftover prescriptions
Health workers, including pharmacists, can help tackle the resistance issues by:
- Enhancing infection prevention and control
- Only prescribing and dispensing antibiotics when they are truly needed
- Prescribing and dispensing the right antibiotic(s) to treat the illness
Policymakers and industries can help tackle the resistance by:
- Strengthening resistance tracking and laboratory capacity
- Regulating and promoting appropriate use of medicines
- Fostering innovation and research and development of new tools
- Promoting cooperation and information sharing among all stakeholders
On March 27, 2015, the White House released a comprehensive plan to address the increasing need for agencies to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
The Action Plan was developed around five goals with focus on strengthening health care, public health, veterinary medicine, agriculture, food safety and research, and manufacturing. These goals, as listed by the White House, are as follows:
- Slow down the emergence of resistant bacteria and prevent the spread of resistant infections
- Strengthen national One-Health surveillance efforts to combat resistance
- Advanced development and use of rapid and innovative diagnostic tests for the identification and characterization of resistant bacteria
- Accelerate basic and applied research and development for new antibiotics, other therapeutics, and vaccines
- Improve international collaboration and capacities for antibiotic resistance prevention, surveillance, control and antibiotic research and development
The following are goals set to meet by 2020.
In 2015, WHO started the World Antibiotic Awareness week from 16–22 November to improve global awareness, promote rational use, and prevent further instances of resistance.
On 22nd September 2016, at the UN Meeting, collaboration between approximately 70 heads of state and ministers of health and foreign affairs demonstrated overwhelming political support to combat AMR. After the meeting, UN decided to focus on rectifying the startling level of under-investment in AMR-related research; and a major new commitment by 13 of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, including giants of the generics industry, to take concrete actions to reduce the development and spread of drug resistance.
Mr. Sylvester a recent pharmacy graduate of Igbinedion University Okada, Nigeria.
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- Arnold SR, Straus SE (2005). Arnold SR, ed. “Interventions to improve antibiotic prescribing practices in ambulatory care”. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (4): CD003539.
- Antibiotic Resistance – Linking Human And Animal Health: Improving Food Safety Through a One Health Approach Workshop Summary. Wegener, Henrik C. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2012
- Todar’s online textbook of bacteriology by Kenneth Todar phD
- Race against time to develop new antibiotics: Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2011,89:88-89
- The bacterial challenge:time to react A call to narrow the gap between multidrug-resistant bacteria in the EU and the development of new antibacterial agents
- “FACT SHEET: Obama Administration Releases National Action Plan to Combat Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria”. whitehouse.gov. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
- WHO AMR newsletter 2016
- “WHO’s first global report on antibiotic resistance reveals serious, worldwide threat to public health” Retrieved 2014-05-02