Imagine going to battle against a side whose soldiers cannot be harmed by your bullets, bombs or nuclear weapons. This is exactly what happens when microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and the likes become resistant to antibiotics, antiviral agents, anti fungal agents respectively.
The development of resistance to these medications has been ongoing for a long time but the general opinion was that these ‘super bugs’ will become a significant issue in the future. However, in my short time as a medical practitioner, I’ve seen patients suffer from infections with multi-drug resistant microorganisms.
WHAT ARE SUPER-BUGS?
It is a term commonly used to describe strains of microorganisms that have acquired resistance to majority of the medications that could once successfully treat the infection. Superbugs are responsible for several otherwise preventable mortality and morbidity.
What if I told you that we are partly responsible for the development of these superbugs?
HOW ARE THE SUPER-BUGS FORMED?
1. Utilization of antimicrobial agents such as anti biotics at suboptimal dosages or not for the appropriate duration.
When the doctor says use this drug three (3) times daily for one (1) week, you use it twice daily and after five(5) days you feel much better and you decide to stop the medication.
2. Use of anti microbial agents when not indicated.
You have a headache and you think you have a fever and you just start taking antibiotics.
3. Antibiotic use in livestock also increases the incidence of antibiotic resistance.
4. Sharing of antibiotics or use of left over prescriptions.
5. Poor hygiene and living in unsanitary conditions.
These are all common causes of increased incidence and spread of superbugs.
How do these microorganisms resist our medications?
1. They reduce the amount of the drug that enters their walls or pump the medications out.
2. They release chemicals that can destroy the drugs.
3. They change such that the drugs cannot recognise them and cannot bind to them.
4. If the drug targets a particular metabolic pathway, they look for another.
Superbugs can be a cause of totally avoidable deaths but thankfully their formation can be prevented, and it begins with each and everyone of us.
Joseph Odeyemi is a highly passionate and motivated medical doctor with a major interest in preventive medicine. He is driven by a keen need to target paediatric public health challenges associated with malnutrition and vaccine-preventable illnesses. He looks forward to harnessing his medical expertise to provide equitable and accessible healthcare to children in Africa, particularly Nigeria. A curious mind with an ardent love for history and football, Joseph is results-oriented, collaborative and excited about new learning opportunities. He graduated top of his class in medical school, spent the next year doing his mandatory 1-year internship at Federal Medical Center, Abeokuta and has since immersed himself into public health practice.