Health hazard of widespread use of antibiotics and bacterial resistance

Dear Editor:
The major cause behind antibiotic resistance revolves around the smartness of the bacteria. It is widely believed that antibiotics inhibit the growth of susceptible bacteria. But bacteria can acquire resistance through mutation and thus defend themselves, if antibiotics are taken abundantly. For survival, bacteria are constantly finding resistance mechanisms to avoid the effects of antibiotics. This was the observation of Dr. Samir K Saha, Professor of Microbiology, Dhaka Shishu (Children) Hospital.
Professor Dr. Samir K Saha said that balanced or rational use will reduce the pressure of antibiotics on pathogenic and non-pathogenic bacteria and thereby decrease the burden of antibiotic resistance. The government has taken an initiative to set up a “model pharmacy”, which has binding instructions to ensure the proper use of medicine. These model pharmacies can be instructed to sell antibiotics only on the basis of authorised prescriptions. If these directives are properly followed, the use of antibiotics will be reduced significantly.
Elderly, young people, newborns and children are usually affected by bacterial infectious diseases. It is a common practice in our country to treat any kind of illness as “bacterial disease” though many of these illnesses are neither infectious nor bacterial infection. Accoreding to Prof. Saha, bacteria are not our enemy. Almost 99 percent of bacteria are beneficial and even essential for our existence.
In his informative article (Lead, pesticides in milk: Offenders must be punished; the Holiday, February 15, 2019) Mr. A M K Chowdhury has written on contaminants in edible substances. Animals carry bacteria on their skins or hides and in their intestines. These bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli or Clostridium perfringens are pathogenic and can cause illness. The transfer of bacteria from the hide or the intestine can occur during the slaughtering process. When cattle are slaughtered, their hide is removed. If great care is not taken, any faecal matter on the hide can come into contact with the flesh.
There is now widespread use of antibiotics, even in poultry, fisheries and livestock. Ironically, we know little about the use of antibiotics in such fields. These antibiotics show up at our doorstep and eventually get discharged into the environment. All this leads to the emergence of bacteria with resistance to all available antibiotics. If we don’t take precautions now, this will put us at risk of a high number of deaths due to bacterial infections, as was the case in the pre-antibiotic era.
Najmul A. Khan
Pallabi, Dhaka

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