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Health & Safety

Improper Use of Antibiotics Becoming a Major Health Threat

Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is reminding the public about proper caution in the use of antibiotics and other antimicrobial medications in order to combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which is becoming a major threat to public health across the globe.

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites develop resilience to the drugs commonly used to treat or prevent infections.

Dr Hussam Al Soub, Senior Consultant at HMC’s Infectious Diseases Unit said:

HMC launched the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program this year in an effort to combat antimicrobial resistance at the hospital level. This programme involves many interventions including enforcement of the antibiotic restriction policy in Qatar, education of physicians on the proper use of antibiotics, and infection control. More efforts are needed at the level of primary healthcare, the private sector and the public.’

Dr Al Soub explained how the overuse or improper use of drugs accelerates the emergence of drug-resistant infections.

He added:

Microorganisms exposed to antimicrobial drugs adapt to the molecules of these drugs and develop resistant traits so that standard treatments become increasingly ineffective. This results in an increased risk of serious illness and death among patients with infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria or pathogens.’

‘At HMC, we have observed an increase in antibiotic resistance over the past few years. The main driving force for this increase was abuse or overuse of antibiotics, especially for upper respiratory tract infections which are mostly caused by viruses that do not require antibiotic treatment.’

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antimicrobial resistance threatens the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections across the world. The WHO has noted an emerging resistance to drugs used in the treatment of certain urinary tract infections, tuberculosis, malaria and human immunodeficiency virus, among others. The problem of antimicrobial resistance is compounded by the fact that very few new antibiotics are discovered, thus limiting options to treat these drug resistant organisms.

Dr Al Soub also stated:

In Qatar, antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs are allowed to be sold over-the-counter only with a doctor’s prescription. This helps to prevent people from trying to self-medicate with antibiotics. Health authorities also strive to ensure that drugs and treatments used in the country are of high quality and up-to-date.’

He urged doctors to ensure they prescribe the right antimicrobial drugs to treat specific infections and to avoid prescribing these drugs unnecessarily, such as in cases where the infections are known to be self-limiting (meaning the infection is expected to go away on its own within a certain period of time, without treatment or only with support therapy).

Dr Al Soub said:

A healthy lifestyle including a well-balanced diet and physical exercise boosts your immune system’s ability to fight off infections. Observing proper personal and food hygiene will also help prevent the spread of infectious diseases that can be transmitted through physical contact, through the air and through contaminated food. Good hand-washing habits, proper handling of food, avoiding close contact with people who have an infectious illness and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and soiled items are some of the ways that we can protect ourselves and others from getting infections and consequently needing antibiotics to treat them.’

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