Using antibiotics for treating common cold and fever or not completing the prescribed antibiotic course, as directed by a medical professional, can potentially expose individuals to the risk of developing antibiotic resistance.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently underscored the importance of implementing a comprehensive and strengthened approach to combat the global threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The health consequences of AMR have been increasingly alarming in society.

Dr. Anil Gurnani, a Critical Care Specialist and Group Director at Kailash Hospitals, elaborated on the topic during an interview with HT Lifestyle. He explained, “Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites evolve over time, rendering patients unresponsive to medications. This makes infections more challenging to treat and can ultimately result in fatalities.” According to him, India carries a substantial burden of drug-resistant pathogens globally, and it is estimated that by the year 2050, AMR could lead to approximately 2 million deaths in India.

On a global scale, 700,000 individuals lose their lives due to AMR each year, and an additional 10 million deaths are projected by 2050. AMR alone claims more lives than cancer and road traffic accidents combined. Dr. Anil Gurnani emphasized, “AMR disrupts a person’s overall treatment, thereby diminishing their quality of life. Taking antibiotics for common colds and fevers or failing to complete the prescribed antibiotic course as directed by a healthcare provider can place individuals at risk of developing antibiotic resistance. This can result in prolonged hospital stays, increased medical expenses, and a heightened risk of severe or complicated illnesses, or even death, as the bacteria or viruses become resistant to medications.”

Causes: Dr. Anil Gurnani highlighted, “AMR can arise or spread due to the overuse of antimicrobial agents, inadequate access to clean water, improper sanitation and hygiene, deficient infection control, limited access to quality antibiotics, and a lack of awareness and knowledge. Antimicrobial resistance represents a significant public health concern in India. Experts in India consider AMR to be a silent pandemic and a major health issue.”

Solution: He further stated that AMR affects people at various stages of life, as a significant number of individuals tend to purchase over-the-counter medications and suffer silently due to a lack of understanding about how these medications work. Dr. Anil Gurnani recommended, “Instead of self-administering any medication without proper knowledge, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional and adhere to their guidance. The doctor-patient relationship is built on trust, so it is essential to engage in a discussion with the doctor before taking any medication. Our objective is to raise awareness regarding this issue to ensure patient safety, and individuals should take the utmost care of their health by refraining from self-prescribing antibiotics.”

He added, “Efforts should also be made to educate the public about the rational use of antimicrobials and to enhance awareness among nurses and other healthcare providers. Antimicrobial resistance in the treatment of conditions like tuberculosis, malaria, pneumonia, and typhoid is a common occurrence and can significantly impact individuals’ well-being. This issue needs to be highlighted to patients. Therefore, patients are strongly encouraged to seek medical consultation whenever they experience health issues and to follow the prescribed medication regimen.”

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