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Antimicrobial Awareness Week: Responsible Use of Antibiotics

Antimicrobial resistance is a complicated issue. While it is one of the biggest threats to global health, antibiotics are also necessary in many cases.

Our role is to provide medical relief, and antibiotics are among the most requested medicines we get. There is no doubt about the immediate effectiveness of these drugs, especially during times of crisis, however as a provider of these medicines, we must be responsible about antibiotic resistance. So how can we do this?

  1. Prioritize prevention where possible

Through our HOPE Project in Ghana, we are working to educate local communities about prevention methods for diseases that are commonly treated with antibiotics, such as pneumonia and diarrhea.

By encouraging communities to adopt preventative habits, we reduce the need for antibiotics to begin with, encouraging healthier and more resilient communities.

2. Raise awareness about what illnesses should not be treated with antibiotics

Viral illnesses such as colds and even COVID-19 cannot be treated with antibiotics. But more complicated are illnesses where the cause is unclear. For example, diarrhea can sometimes be caused by bacteria and parasites, in which case antibiotics can be an effective treatment, but they will do nothing for diarrhea caused by a virus.

In cases like this, it’s important to identify the cause of the infection before prescribing the antibiotics.

3. Avoid misuse at all costs

In cases where antibiotics must be prescribed, it’s important to see the prescription through fully, and never share the medication. Stopping treatment early promotes the growth of drug-resistant bacteria which causes antibiotic resistance.

While there is no question that antimicrobials play a major role in reducing the number of preventable deaths, if we don’t work now to slow antimicrobial resistance, the impacts on global health will be devastating.

We would lose the ability to prevent the deaths that we currently can, as a growing number of infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea, and salmonellosis are becoming harder to treat with antibiotics.

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