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New Rules on Antibiotic Resistance by WHO
In an effort to curb antibiotic resistance, the World Health Organization (WHO) has divided the drugs into three categories — access, watch and reserve — specifying which are to be used for common ailments and which are to be kept for complicated diseases.
The division of the antibiotic is as follows:
Access: For commonly used antibiotics. Antibiotics in this group will be available at all times as treatment for a wide range of common infections. This includes amoxicillin, a widely-used antibiotic to treat infections such as pneumonia.
Watch: For second line drugs, slightly more potent. It covers antibiotics that are recommended as first or second choice treatment for a small number of infections. The WHO has recommended that prescription of these drugs should be dramatically reduced to avoid further development of resistance.
Reserve: For crucial stage, potent drugs to be used only as a “last resort” . The third group, ‘reserve’, includes antibiotics such as colistin and some cephalosporins that should be considered last-resort options, and used only in the most severe circumstances when all other alternatives have failed, such as for life-threatening infections due to multidrug-resistant bacteria.
This is the biggest revision of the antibiotics section in the 40-year history of the essential medicines list (EML).
What is antibiotic resistance?
Antibiotic resistance is the ability of bacteria to resist the effects of an antibiotic. It occurs when bacteria change in a way that reduces the effectiveness of drugs, chemicals, or other agents designed to cure or prevent infections. Antibiotic resistance occurs naturally, but misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is accelerating the process.
Issues related to antibiotic resistance:
Antibiotic resistance leads to higher medical costs, prolonged hospital stays, and increased mortality.
It is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.
It can affect anyone, of any age, in any country.
A growing number of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and gonorrhoea – are becoming harder to treat as the antibiotics used to treat them become less effective.
Antibiotics can be bought for human or animal use without a prescription, the emergence and spread of resistance is made worse. Similarly, in countries without standard treatment guidelines, antibiotics are often over-prescribed by health workers and veterinarians and over-used by the public.
The recent study of The Indian Council of Medical Research found out that the resistance to antibiotics was found in 50% of patients.
As per the statistics of Centers for Disease Control at least 23,000 people in the United States die each year due to infections that are resistant to antibiotic treatments.
Significance of the initiative
Prior to everything, the best way to educate the public about medicine is to properly educate physicians first.
It will also ensure that they get the right antibiotic which will eventually solve the problem of resistance.
With strict filter of the antibiotics, under which some medicines are reserved for the most resistant microbes, the WHO list can stop their misuse as broad-spectrum treatments.
With access to speedy and accurate diagnosis, this new beginning can sensitize the medical community to its responsibility to prevent antimicrobial resistance
It will also take enlightened policies on housing, sanitation and hygiene education to prevent new infections and the spread of disease-causing organisms.
It will take good public health policies, sufficient funding and determined leadership to overcome antibiotic resistance.
The new categorization will further guide countries in ensuring access to appropriate antibacterial agents and support antimicrobial stewardship effort.
The new WHO list should help health system planners and prescribers ensure that people who need antibiotics have access to them, and ensure they get the right one, so that the problem of resistance doesn’t get worse
The new guidelines by WHO will surely help in fighting the spread of antibiotic resistance. Health system planners and prescribers must ensure the rules are followed in true spirit.
Connecting the dots:
The issue of antibiotic resistance is becoming more and more challenging. However, the recent guidelines by WHO on antibiotic resistance may help solve the problem. Discuss.