The problem with the reckless use of antibiotics
We are deeply concerned about the findings of a recent study—funded by the Research and Publication Office of the University of Chittagong, and supported by the Disease Biology and Molecular Epidemiology Research Group, Chittagong—which revealed that overuse and misuse of antibiotics have caused resistance in people of all age groups in the port city.
The study was conducted on 1,000 patients from two Chattogram hospitals, around half of whom were children, between 2018 and 2020. The ineffectiveness of antibiotics is such that 47 percent of the infants and children were found to be infected by at least three types of antibiotic-resistant germs. Additionally, 40 percent of participants aged 15 years and above showed resistance to at least three antibiotic drugs, while 70 percent of the participants were resistant to at least one antibiotic.
While the participants of the study were all from Chattogram, considering the tendency of Bangladeshis to self-prescribe antibiotics and other medicines—and the carelessness with which these drugs are sold by many unlicensed pharmacies across the country—one may not be wrong to assume that the situation is similar in the rest of the country. The research found that such resistance can be passed down from mothers to their children. Other major causes include patients getting infected by antibiotic-resistant pathogens in hospitals, irrational use of antibiotics without doctors' prescription/advice, and through the consumption of dairy and poultry products laced with antibiotics.
The researchers of the study emphasised regular monitoring and clinical detection of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and their plasmids—specific genetic structures—to prevent public health disasters. Otherwise, they fear the treatment of children using antibiotics will be nearly impossible in the future.
Again, there can be no denying of the haphazard manner in which major medicines such as antibiotics are sold over the counter in Bangladesh. But the findings of the Chattogram study confirm that it is high time to put a stop to this culture. The people of the country must be made aware of the dangers of consuming antibiotics unless they have been prescribed by a licensed doctor. Additionally, legitimate pharmacies must practise selling such drugs to people only at the reference of a doctor. We hope that steps will be taken by the authorities to not only find ways around such resistance when treating patients, but to also crack down heavily on the reckless retail of antibiotics.