Healthcare professionals can help reduce antimicrobial resistance

Health Science Communication

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites resist the actions of the antimicrobials (drugs) that are designed to kill them, making infections harder to treat hence increasing the risk of the infection.

AMR is caused primarily by the inappropriate use and overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals hence reducing unnecessary use is considered as the main strategy for tackling the AMR problem.

Healthcare professionals can play a big role in the fight against AMR as they are the patient’s first point of contact, therefore they can influence the patient’s use of antimicrobials and reduce AMR by:

  1. Doctors, nurses and pharmacists
  • Advising patients on the safe ways for disposing or returning unused drugs. Patients can as well be advised to never dispose of unused antimicrobials in the toilet or sink. This is important because improper disposal of drugs can cause negative and toxic effects on our environment.
  • Educating the patients about the drugs they consume and the risks associated. This helps to reduce incidences of abuse and occurrence of
    resistant infections.
  • Improving sanitation in hospitals to prevent healthcare-associated infections. Keeping a clean environment helps to ensure that diseases don’t spread.
  • Making use of alternative approaches such as vaccination to prevent infection, limiting the spread of infections within a community.
  • Prescribing antibiotics appropriately. For example, antibiotics should be prescribed only to a patient suffering from bacterial infections and not from viral infections.
  • Isolating patients infected with antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria from other patients.
  • Promoting effective hand hygiene by washing the hands with soap and water, before and after touching the patient.

2. Laboratory technicians and scientists

  • Promoting new, rapid and accurate diagnostic tests. This is essential as will allow doctors to prescribe antimicrobial to those patients who actually need them.
  • Developing new vaccines, antimicrobials and other alternatives such as phage therapy.
  • Ensuring appropriate waste management in the laboratory.
  • Doing extensive research on AMR infections.

3. Psychologists

  • Encouraging patients and the public to use antibiotics responsibly.
  • Understand the drivers of AMR from an individual and behaviour change perspective as psychological perspective targets different decision making of prescribers.

Why reducing AMR infections is important.

Antimicrobial resistance infections result in at least 700,000 deaths worldwide each year. International agencies report that by 2050, drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths each year. The rising rates of resistant infections lead to a significant impact on the cost of treatment. Studies from European Union estimates a cost of 1.5 billion euros. Therefore reducing AMR infections could help reduce the length of hospital stays, healthcare costs in treating infections and the death toll associated with AMR occurrence.

Sources:

https://www.who.int/news/item/29-04-2019-new-report-calls-for-urgent-action-to-avert-antimicrobial-resistance-crisis

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4768623/

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