Antibiotic resistance worrying
The other pandemic happening right under our nose is resistance to antibiotics
Panadol an antibiotic ?” “ Can antibiotics be taken to cure the common cold ?” “ Should we complete the course of our antibiotics ?”
The above three questions were fielded to 318 high school students from Penang , Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur who attended a webinar on antibiotic resistance held from October to November 2020 .
The webinars ( one for each school ) were organised by Associate Professor Dr Neoh Hui-min and Associate Professor Dr Tan Toh Leong from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia , with a grant from the Malaysian National Commission for UNESCO ( MNCU ).
“ We wanted to know how aware are our high school students about antibiotics — what are they , how should these drugs be used , and do our future generation know the threat of antibiotic resistance infections ,” commented Dr Neoh .
More than two-thirds of the students replied correctly to the above three questions . Interestingly , on average , more than 90 per cent of the students were aware that antibiotics should not be taken for a common cold and they should complete the course of antibiotics once started .
Nevertheless , this message had been repeatedly emphasised during the webinar , which might have given a clue to the students to answer the questions correctly .“ About 15 per cent were not sure what category of drugs antibiotics are …. perhaps that is why some of them thought paracetamol ( Panadol ) is an antibiotic ”, said Dr Neoh ( see graphics ).
The findings to the above short survey are not surprising , since the syllabus for high school students in Malaysia covers only general areas of biology .“ Most students are only exposed to the subjects of microbiology and infectious diseases when they are in university – and that ’ s if they enrol into life or health sciences or medicine .
“ It will be great if we can provide greater exposure to our younger generation to microbiology and infectious diseases during high school .
“ This will make a difference in our country ’ s public health . We can gauge how aware our current population is on infectious disease transmission by
It will be great if we can provide greater exposure to our younger generation to microbiology and infectious diseases during high school . This will make a difference in our country ’ s public health . We can gauge how aware our current population is on infectious disease transmission by observing how they responded to the Covid-19 pandemic ,”
— Dr Tan
observing how they responded to the Covid-19 pandemic ,” said Dr Tan .
Taking antibiotics for granted
Unknown to many , another “ silent ” pandemic is on the rise , lurking under the radar , due to its “ slow-motion ” approach . This refers to the pandemic of antimicrobial resistant ( AMR ) infections .
“ We are so used to having antibiotics ( a type of antimicrobial ) in our life , that we do not realise how much modern medicine ( and our health and life span ) depends on it . Procedures such as surgeries , chemotherapy , dialysis , even tooth extractions and childbirth and delivery have been made possible , with antibiotics to fall back upon should infections occur . We have taken the existence of antibiotics for granted ,” continued Dr Neoh .
The lackadaisical attitude that most of us have towards antibiotics , coupled with spurious , uncontrolled use of antibiotics , both in humans and livestock , have resulted in rising cases of antibioticresistant infections . Coupled with drying antibiotic pipelines — no new class of antibiotic has been discovered since the millennium — we face a slow , but certain pandemic of AMR infections on the making .
This pandemic has been projected to kill 10 million people per year , if nothing is done now to prevent it .
“ We have been researching on antibiotic resistance for some years .
The findings from these research projects contribute towards a deeper understanding about antibiotic resistance mechanisms , and also how to identify , track and control the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria in the hospital .
“ However , we feel we should start to do our part in creating awareness about antibiotic resistance in our future generation . We can see how Covid-19 impacts not just healthcare , but also the economy and our livelihood .
“ It will be the same , or even worse , if we let a pandemic of antibiotic resistant infections occur . Untreatable illness , poverty , hunger and economic disparity will be widespread . The United Nations ’ Sustainable Developmental Goals , supposedly to be achieved by 2030 for our future generation , will remain just that — goals that remain unachieved ,” said Dr Neoh .
Both researchers are grateful to MNCU for the award of the grant which allows them to deliver the webinars on antibiotic resistance to schools in Penang , Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur in conjunction with the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week ( WAAW ) organised annually by the World Health Organization on 18 – 24th November every year . The programme is also supported by the Malaysian Sepsis Alliance , SEDRIC ( The Surveillance and Epidemiology of Drug-resistant Infections Consortium , UK ) and also the producers of the “ post-antibiotic world ” film CATCH . — The Health