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Health experts raise alarm over drug resistance

Health experts might be forced to go back to the drawing board as drugs used in treating common deadly diseases are becoming ineffective.

From common wound infections to pneumonia, sexually–transmitted diseases, resistance to available drugs is leaving many doctors scratching their heads.

Health officials said there are few new treatments expected in the near future to deal with a host of deadly “super-bugs” such as bacteria, viruses and parasites that are becoming resistant to the current generation of drugs.

They said malaria, tuberculosis, meningitis, diarrhoea and HIV might also become difficult to treat in the future as rates of drug resistance increase, resulting in long illnesses or even deaths.

Worse still, treating infections during childbirth, surgery and accidents might also become hard, according to reports.

Reports said this dangerous scenario has been linked to drug misuse by many Kenyans who purchase drugs without doctors’ prescription and who do not take the required doses, making pathogens develop resistance.

Even the World Health Organisation has raised a red flag in a recent report, warning that the progress in modern medicine is facing great risks due to this drug resistance experienced in countries around the world.

“An era in which common infections and minor injuries can be major killers is no longer an apocalyptic fantasy but a very real possibility for the 21st Century,” said the report titled Antimicrobial Resistance.

It added: “It is clear that resistance to common pathogens has reached alarming levels in many parts of the world indicating that many of the available treatment options for common infections, in some settings, are becoming ineffective.”

Director of Medical Services Nicholas Muraguri (pictured) admitted that increasing pathogen resistance to common treatment options, including antibiotics, is a matter of great concern in the health sector.

He cited the case of gonorrhea and syphilis in which the Health ministry has been forced to issue new treatment guidelines after previous drugs became ineffective.

“This is a worldwide problem and we hope that countries will work together to come up with a joint strategy to deal with this alarming issue. If it is not tackled urgently, treatment of killer diseases in the near future may become tricky,” Dr Muraguri said.

Abdi Mohammed, a doctor in private practice in Nairobi and chairperson of the Kenya Medical Association – Nairobi Division, said the increasing disease resistance to drugs is largely a result of drug misuse.

The doctor, who said he has witnessed cases of patients in his Ladnan Hospital being drug resistant, said many Kenyans purchase drugs off the counter and “treat” themselves. Dr Mohammed said the self-styled “doctors” often use the wrong doses of the drugs or fail to follow the prescriptions, increasing drug resistance.

“When a patient fails to take the right dosage for a disease, this will gradually cause resistance to the drugs such that after some time, the drugs will not be effective in such persons,” he said.

ingest antibiotics

Ahmed Kalebi, a consultant pathologist in private practice and University of Nairobi lecturer, points out that resistance does not only concern antibiotics that treat bacterial infections, but also tuberculosis and anti-viral drugs for HIV among other infections.

“At the end of the day, it is very important that medications used to treat various infections are used only for the right micro-organisms, and used appropriately,” Dr Kalebi said.

According to Ruchika Kohli, a clinical pathologist in Nairobi, although antibiotics are bound to lose their punch in the long run against common diseases, this can be delayed if Kenyans use their drugs without abuse.

Dr Kohli, who is the country director of Pathologists Lancet Kenya, an accredited laboratory that tests for drug resistance, said it is becoming standard procedure for doctors to find out whether a particular pathogen they wish to treat might be resistant to some or all of the available treatments.

Drug resistance can also come about indirectly. Moses Olum, a veterinary surgeon at the University of Nairobi, expressed concern that widespread abuse of antibiotics in livestock is also contributing to drug resistance being seen in humans.

He warned the antibiotics often find their way into the human body when the animals and animal products are consumed. “As one consumes these animal products, they ingest low amounts of antibiotics,” he said.

Dr Olum called on livestock keepers to use antibiotics only when it is absolutely necessary and in amounts as prescribed by professional experts.

Updated Sunday, November 9th 2014 at 20:44 GMT +3
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