Education and awareness in the use of antimicrobials

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Multi-resistant bacteria are a real threat to global public health. Increased use of antibiotic treatments reduces the effectiveness of future treatments

Antimicrobial drugs, especially antibiotics that target bacteria, are among the most precious medical resources today. Antibiotics are crucial to modern medicine, as they cure and even help prevent many types of infections. Without them, many routine procedures that carry a high risk of contracting infections, such as complex surgeries or the administration of immunosuppressive treatments to people with cancer, could not be performed.

However, these antibiotics must be administered rationally, and only when prescribed by the doctor, since the more they are used, the more pressure the bacteria have to develop resistance. As a consequence of their intensive use, microorganisms mutate and find ways to resist the effects of antibiotics. For this reason, antimicrobials are alarmingly losing their effectiveness: resistant pathogens survive, grow, and spread their resistance, causing more and more deaths and more pressure for care.

A global threat

The development and spread of multi-resistant bacteria is a real threat to global public health today, as recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO). These resistant bacteria produce up to 700,000 annual deaths in the world and, recently, it has been estimated that they could cause the death of 10 million people in the year 2050, surpassing cancer as the first cause of death.

In Spain, according to the Spanish Society for Infectious Diseases and Clinical Microbiology (SEIMC), the results are overwhelming, and each year, more than 35,000 people die with infections caused by multi-resistant bacteria. These data are worrying since they cause an increase in medical costs, a prolongation of hospital stays, and an increase in mortality.

Consequently, as stressed by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, “extreme caution must be exercised in the use of this type of medicine.” In addition, as warned by the United Nations (UN) and the National Plan against Antibiotic Resistance of the Ministry of Health, the increase in the use of antibiotic treatments in the context of the pandemic caused by the coronavirus, could facilitate the development of resistant bacteria and reduce the effectiveness of future treatments.

Although covid-19 is a viral infection, there are patients with the possibility of secondary bacterial infection in whom antibiotic prescription should be considered. For this reason, this year it is more important than ever to try to avoid bacterial infections through vaccination and hand hygiene, common gestures in preventing the spread of flu, and covid-19.

Antimicrobial awareness

Aware of the current magnitude of the problem and committed to joining the effort led annually by WHO, the biopharmaceutical company Pfizer supports the 2020 World Antimicrobial Awareness Week to increase awareness of antimicrobial resistance. For this reason, this year it has launched the ‘Act Now-Stop Resistance’ campaign, based on a commitment document supported by all medical societies and patients involved and which seeks to be a call to action for the entire society.

This initiative, which has the support and collaboration of the Spanish Society of Infectious Diseases and Clinical Microbiology (SEIMC), the Spanish Society of Preventive Medicine, Public Health and Hygiene (SEMPSPH), the Spanish Society of Hospital Pharmacy (SEFH), the Spanish Society of Intensive, Critical Medicine and Coronary Units (SEMICYUC) and the Platform of Patient Organizations (POP) seek to promote awareness of antibiotic resistance, through their rational use and of the urgent need to promote awareness education and prevention education, through measures such as vaccination and key gestures such as hand hygiene.

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