In November each year, World Antibiotics Awareness Week (WAAW) provides a crucial opportunity to educate the public, health professionals, and policymakers about the dangers of antibiotic resistance. This phenomenon, known as Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), poses a significant threat to human health, with dire consequences if not addressed promptly and collaboratively. AMR occurs when bacteria develop resistance due to the overuse of antibiotics, and it is now recognized as a major public health crisis.
AMR has reached alarming levels globally, with an estimated 700,000 deaths occurring annually due to resistant infections. If left unchecked, AMR could lead to 300 million deaths worldwide by 2050. The indiscriminate use of antibiotics in humans, animals, and agriculture contributes to the rise of superbugs—extremely resistant bacteria. The misuse of antibiotics, exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, jeopardises the effectiveness of essential drugs.
In Pakistan, antibiotic use is alarmingly high, both in human and animal health. The misuse of antibiotics, particularly for viral infections, contributes to the rise of superbugs, causing numerous deaths and hospitalizations annually. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, global antibiotic use has surged, further intensifying the AMR crisis.
A key strategy in combating AMR is the extensive use of vaccines, which can prevent infections and reduce the overuse of antibiotics. Vaccines for pneumonia, diarrheas, otitis media, meningitis, and typhoid have shown remarkable success in reducing infections and, consequently, antibiotic use. Pakistan’s National Action Plan for combating AMR recognizes vaccines as a crucial tool in addressing this issue.
The benefits of vaccines, such as the Typhoid Conjugate Vaccine (TCV), in mitigating the burden of resistant strains can be substantial. Ensuring universal coverage of relevant vaccines is vital in the fight against AMR. A collaborative and holistic “One Health” approach, involving various sectors like human and veterinary medicine, agriculture, finance, environment, and consumers, is essential to decrease AMR.
Education and awareness are critical to promoting vaccine uptake, prudent antibiotic use, and infection control measures. As we observe the 2023 World Antimicrobial Resistance Awareness Week, it is imperative that we act urgently by taking all available steps to curb antimicrobial resistance. Every individual must contribute to this national and global cause to reduce AMR, prevent the spread of superbugs, and safeguard lives, including the future of our children.
PROFESSOR EJAZ A KHAN