Become an Antibiotic Guardian today and play your part in fighting antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – a serious problem that impacts every one of us. Global campaigns held over Antibiotic Awareness week in November shared a stark message: act fast or risk soon losing 10 million people a year to AMR.
Change can't wait. Our time with antibiotics is running out. These words led the World Health Organisation's World Antibiotic Awareness Week campaign in late November, which declared resistance to antibiotic drugs one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and development.
"Since their discovery, antibiotics have served as a cornerstone of modern medicine. However, the persistent overuse and misuse of antibiotics in human and animal health have encouraged the emergence and spread of AMR," says Dr Roshini Moodley Naidoo, Head of Risk Management and Quality of Care at Discovery Health. "This occurs when microbes, such as bacteria, become resistant to the drugs used to treat them. Misuse refers to cases where antibiotics – which are meant to treat bacterial infections - are dispensed to people with viral infections like colds and flu, and when they are given as growth promoters in animals or used to prevent diseases in healthy animals."
AMR affects each of us - in a very real way
Melissa Platt and her husband Fred, founded the Footprints 4 Sam Trust in memory of their son, who was born with Central Core disease, a non-degenerative, rare muscle myopathy. Yet, he passed away in 2016, at 15.5 months old. Sam spent all of his life in hospital Intensive Care Units, and died from a sudden onset of sepsis, caused by three hospital-induced superbugs - burkholderia, klebsiella and pseudomonas. "When a child is in ICU for a long time, and on a ventilator, the nosocomial infection rate is compounded due to the risk of ventilator-acquired pneumonia," explains Melissa. "Sam was on last-in-line antibiotic, Colistin. Once he got sepsis there was nothing more that doctors could use to treat him." Ultimately, this ordeal spurred this brave mom on to complete a Postgraduate Diploma in Palliative Medicine (completed cum laude) and Melissa now works as a palliative coach and a professional consultant, focused on the paediatric healthcare sector. She adds: "We are passionate about getting children out of ICU as soon as possible, to limit the risk of infections."
Who is at risk of contracting so-called superbugs? "People with weak immune systems, new-born babies, the elderly, sick people, and patients who spend an extended time in a healthcare facility," adds Dr Moodley Naidoo. "When bacterial infections become resistant to first-line antibiotics, more expensive medicines are needed to fight them. Serious illnesses and treatments last longer, increasing healthcare costs as well as the economic burden on families and societies. People with these infections are at greater risk of death. So-called 'superbugs' are near impossible, or impossible, to treat. Organ transplants, chemotherapy and surgeries become much more dangerous without effective antibiotics for the prevention and treatment of infections."
Make your Antibiotic Guardian pledge today!
Professor Adrian Brink, a Clinical Microbiologist, serves on the South African Minister of Health's Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on AMR, has secured sponsorship from Public Health England (PHE) who, via the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, will host South Africa's first ever AMR online awareness campaign.
"By pledging their commitment online and becoming 'Antibiotic Guardians', Discovery Health Medical Scheme members and members of society at large can choose from a list of pledges – simple actions - that they can practice, to prevent the over-use of antibiotics, so keeping these drugs viable," explains Prof. Brink.
Dr Diane Ashiru-Oredope, Pharmacist Lead for the Antimicrobial Resistance programme at PHE and lead co-coordinator for the Antibiotic Guardian campaign for SA, says in this regard: "Everyone can play a part in tackling antibiotic resistance. We often hear about the problem of these vital drugs becoming ineffective, but not about what actions individuals can take to help – this is exactly what the Antibiotic Guardian campaign provides."
Simple things you can do to do to combat AMR now
According to the WHO, to prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, we can:
- Prevent infections by regularly washing hands, preparing food hygienically, avoiding close contact with sick people, practising safer sex, and keeping vaccinations up to date.
- Prepare food hygienically, following the WHO Five Keys to Safer Food (keep clean, separate raw and cooked, cook thoroughly, keep food at safe temperatures, use safe water and raw materials) and choose foods that have been produced without the use of antibiotics for growth promotion or disease prevention in healthy animals.
- Only use antibiotics when prescribed by a certified health professional.
- Never demand antibiotics if your health worker says you don't need them.
- Always follow your health worker's advice when using antibiotics.
- Never share or use leftover antibiotics.
The Discovery Health Medical Scheme is an independent non-profit entity governed by the Medical Schemes Act, and regulated by the Council for Medical Schemes. It is administered by a separate company, Discovery Health (Pty) Ltd, an authorised financial services provide
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