Why We Must Finish Our Antibiotics

Multidrug-resistant super fungus Candida auris, which can kill in 90 days, has spread to Singapore.

KUALA LUMPUR, April 19 – A doctor has urged Malaysians to complete their entire antibiotics course, amid a global threat of drug-resistant germs that could kill 10 million people yearly.

Consultant infectious disease physician Dr Sasheela Sri La Sri Ponnampalavanar highlighted the “Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)”, a report commissioned by the UK government, that estimated 10 million people will die from resistance to antimicrobial medicines like antibiotics and antifungals by 2050, higher than the current combined deaths for cancer, diabetes, and road traffic accidents.

Asia is expected to bear the brunt at 4.73 million deaths by that year.

“If you have a bacterial infection, it is important that you complete the antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor to prevent emergence of resistant bacteria and partial infection treatment,” Dr Sasheela said in an article by GSK.

“Overall, antibiotic use must be controlled. Physicians, pharmacists, and the general public must avoid careless use of these precious drugs. Antibiotics must be prescribed only for bacterial infections and in the proper dose for the correct amount of time,” she added.

A mysterious germ called Candida auris has spread to Southeast Asia and around the world, where three people in Singapore were reportedly infected with the multidrug-resistant super fungus.

Almost 600 cases of C. auris were reported in the United States, with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reportedly saying that almost half of those who contract the sickness die within 90 days.

Dr Sasheela urged patients not to “save” antibiotics for use at another time and told them to ask their doctor what and why they were prescribed certain medications.

She also stressed that antibiotics are only meant to treat bacterial infections like throat infection, whooping cough, and abscesses.

“It has no effect on viral infections such as influenza, common colds and dengue. It is not only ineffective in combating the virus but could also attack the antibiotic sensitive beneficial bacteria in the body, promoting the overgrowth of resistance bacteria. Additionally, the resistant bacteria can transfer their resistant genes to the sensitive bacteria in our body.”

Dr Sasheela said there were very few options to treat resistant bacteria and doctors sometimes did not even have any alternatives.

“I have personally experienced patients who suffer from AMR; most of them have been exposed to multiple courses of antibiotics. Once a person is exposed to an antibiotic and develops resistance, the resistance can remain in the body for a long time, at times more than a year.

“These patients are more difficult to treat. They need prolonged intravenous antibiotics therapy, and the outcome is generally poor,” she said.

She added that most ingested antibiotics pass through the body intact and can promote antibiotic resistance in bacteria even after they enter the environment as a waste product.

“Thus, antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance can eventually affect an entire community.”

Editor’s note: CodeBlue reported earlier that Dr Sasheela had cited the “Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)” by Amsterdam-based research programme AMR Benchmark. The document was wrongly cited due to an error by GSK’s PR company. The correct document is the AMR commissioned by the UK government. CodeBlue has since rectified the mistake.

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