MISUSE of antibiotics could lead to the possible introduction of new harmful bacteria into the community, according to a regional expert.
Antibiotic resistance has been a topic of interest for many years. Bacteria which are not killed by antibiotics gain resistance to the drug and then continue to grow and spread from person to person.
Efforts made to lower the spread of resistance have shown signs of success. However, research by Saudi Arabia’s Al Faisal University Microbiology professor Dr Atef Shibl showed that non-invasive diseases – those that do not spread to organs and tissues – are also becoming resistant and have begun to become invasive.
He cited haemophilus influenzae (HI) – a bacterium responsible for diseases such as pneumonia – as an example.
“If we talk of haemophilus influenzae as an organism, previously we were concerned with Type B, but there are several serotypes such as Type A, B, C, F and so on,” he told the GDN.
The World Health Organisation had previously developed vaccines for HI Type B, but other types have recently proved problematic.
“These other types, for the last few years we thought that they weren’t going to cause an invasive disease. Nowadays, we see types other than Type B causing invasive diseases.”
Part of the problem is clinicians prescribing antibiotics based on “clinical symptoms” without considering the medical environment, he said.
Western countries have developed a system which collects data from different regions which helps clinicians make the right choice regarding antibiotic use when dealing with patients.
“In the Gulf, we don’t have such a system. It all depends on personal activities. Some hospitals may have it, and others don’t. Some clinicians are doing surveillance, and others are not.”
The risk of an organism becoming invasive does not apply only to haemophilus influenzae.
With misuse of antibiotics, non-invasive organisms which are localised in our body can become resistant to antibiotics and later spread to organs and become invasive.
Antibiotic resistance became an issue as medical professionals were worried that bacteria might become resistant to the last line of antibiotics, creating superbugs which can escape the drug.
Antibiotic abuse was addressed globally, but certain hospitals continue to conduct sloppy practices such as prescribing antibiotics for cold and flu.
Dr Shibl advised clinicians against the misuse of antibiotics, and urged hospitals to develop an infection control programme which would prevent the spread of resistance from one patient to another.