Woman develops resistance to 15 drugs, doctors alarmed

A few doctors here faced a unique situation a couple of days ago after coming across a 75-year-old female patient who has developed resistance to as many as 15 antibiotics! The list includes three drugs in reserve category. However, specialists say that it is not an isolated case. Doctors heading Intensive Care Units (ICUs) say they are increasingly coming across such patients, which is alarming. Given the situation, finding the next antibiotic which could work on such patients is proving to be a challenge.

Head of Critical Care Division at Continental Hospitals, Palepu Gopal says a large number of COVID-19 patients who died did not succumb to the infection itself. “The reason for their deaths was multidrug-resistant secondary infections. They were resistant to all kinds of antibiotics,” he explains.

Global threat

World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as one of the top 10 global health threats facing humanity. Antimicrobials include antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and antiparasitics. The World Antimicrobial Awareness Week is celebrated from November 18 to 24 every year. This year, the theme is ‘Spread Awareness, Stop Resistance’.

Vice-president of Healthcare Reforms Doctors Association (HRDA) Mohammad Jahangir, who brought to the fore the case of the woman resistant to 15 antibiotics, says quackery needs to be stopped as unqualified medical practitioners give high grade antibiotics along with steroids for simple fevers, when the medicines are not required. “This increases antibiotic resistance,” he adds.

HRDA president K. Mahesh Kumar asserts that a few corporate hospitals also use broad spectrum antibiotics when it was not required.

Apart from the indiscriminate prescription by unqualified practitioners, there could be three other reasons for the drug resistance, says President of Infection Control Academy of India, Ranga Reddy Burri. The first is use of antibiotics in livestock/ fisheries industries. Then there are companies discharging pharmaceutical effluents without treating it and that gets seeped into soil, thereby polluting crops and water. Finally, the habit of people popping pills for quick recovery with an eye to get back to work at the earliest.

“Antibiotics are used by poultry, fisheries, and other meat growers as a prophylaxis to save the crop from possible infections. This is a misconception. Besides, it is believed that low doses of antibiotics promotes growth of the livestock,” he says.

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