Antibiotics – do you really need them?
Doctors of BC Post, October 2016.
When we fall sick, we typically turn to antibiotics to fight the illness – often without waiting for any test results to come back. However we may be doing ourselves more harm than good. Antibiotics have been used to fight bacteria based illness for decades – but are completely useless when encountering virus based illness. When we use an antibiotic, any bacteria that can resist that antibiotic will have a greater chance of survival than those that are susceptible to it. This has resulted in what scientists now call antibiotic resistant “superbugs.” Globally it’s estimated that more than 700,000 people die annually from drug-resistant infections – a number that has sparked the United Nations (UN) to elevate the problem of antibiotic resistance to crisis level, and deem it a “fundamental threat” to global health and safety. The UN says that if left unaddressed, by the year 2050 more people will die from superbugs than from cancer today.
In late September the UN General Assembly held an historic meeting among world leaders to discuss a plan to fight drug-resistant superbugs. It is rare for a health topic to reach this level, making it only the fourth time a health issue has been taken up the by UN General Assembly – putting it on par with Ebola and HIV. A declaration was signed by all 193 member nations to take action against the proliferation of antibiotic resistance and to develop national action plans.
And while the UN’s spotlight on this health issue aims to mobilize coordination and action plans around the world, emphasis is also being placed on the important role individuals themselves can play in combating this health crisis by using antibiotics responsibly. Says Dr Margaret Chan, director-general of the UN’s World Health Organization, “It is imperative for consumers and medical providers to rely less on antibiotics for disease treatment.”
For more information on the meeting visit the World Health Organization website.