So you go to the hospital for this really terrible recurring sore throat infection. And your doctor sends you for a laboratory test. Some eye-squinting and teeth-clenching minutes after, blood has been drawn.

Then a few hours later, the result is out. You throat is septic; worse, it is resistant to several antibiotics – erythromycin, penicillin, and a few other ‘ins’.

And the battle to ensure you are out of pain becomes a little harder that you thought it would be a few antibiotics later.

Titi Adesanmi, a paediatrician at the lifefort children centre, says antibiotics can become resistant to certain bacteria for various reasons, especially “inappropriate dozing and inappropriate use of the drugs”.

She says “sensitivity to antibiotics is location dependent… In Lagos,  ampiclox can be resistant to a certain bacteria because it has been abused in that environment, but in Bauchi, it will be effective because may be they have been using herbs for treatment”.

But if Adesanmi insists that antibiotics must not be abused, for say an injury on the leg which a person then follows up with antibiotics, a few doctors (and this is just to avoid the fallacy of generalisation) will administer antibiotics on the mention of a symptom with no tests to confirm.

“He has been vomiting and can’t seem to put anything down,” a mother, who will rather remain anonymous, said she told a doctor, at a Gbaja maternity and child centre in Surulere.

“The doctor scribbled an antibiotics prescription and when I asked him if we were not going to run tests, he told me he had numerous children to attend to including neonates, as though I was wasting his time.”

“I took the prescription and went out of the hospital with a promise never to return to that hospitals again.”

Also, with the proliferation of road side chemists and even pharmacies that sell antibiotics as an over the counter (OTC) drug, abuse is bound to be rife.

“I have a sore throat, give me azithroymycin,” I told a pharmacist. He passed it to me and I parted with N1500. No test to determine if I have a viral or bacterial infection. No tests to determine the kind of antibiotics I should have.

But the World Health Organisation (WHO), in its article on how to stop antibiotic resistance, says antibiotics all effort should be made to determine and confirm the antibiotic a person should have.

“Don’t prescribe or dispense antibiotics unless they are truly necessary and you have made all efforts to test and confirm which antibiotic your human patient or the animal you are treating should have. Today, it is estimated that in half of all cases, antibiotics are prescribed for conditions caused by viruses, where they do no good. You can also do more to prevent infections in the first place by ensuring your hands, instruments and environment are clean, and employing vaccines where appropriate,” Marc Sprenger, director of the WHO’s secretariat for antimicrobial resistance, said.

He also instructed that people should resort to antibiotics “only when prescribed by a certified health professional”.

Sprenger says there is no need to be timid about asking attending doctor if you feel you really need antibiotics.

“If you take an antibiotic, always complete the full prescription, even if you feel better, because stopping treatment early promotes the growth of drug-resistant bacteria,” he says.

It is simple, if we don’t adhere to these instructions, according to Sprenger, we might be moving backwards in time when “bacterial infections were often lethal because there were no specific treatments available”.

“Many such infections are rapidly becoming resistant to life-saving drugs. This development can be attributed, to some extent, to biology. It is inevitable that each drug will lose its ability to kill disease-causing bacteria over time. That is because bacteria, through natural selection and genetic adaptation, become resistant to antibiotics.”

“However, we are speeding up the process dramatically by using antibiotics too much and often in the wrong contexts,” he concluded.



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