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Multi-resistant pathogens

World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2021

Spread awareness – stop resistance!

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The World Health Organisation's (WHO) World Antimicrobial Awareness Week takes place from 18 to 24 November. The goal: to promote the prudent use of antibiotics through awareness and education and thereby prevent antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are an ever-growing health problem to the world's population – experts have long warned of a post-antibiotic age. Diseases that are easily curable today would then suddenly become difficult to treat and could rapidly become fatal. To avoid this gloomy scenario, it is important to employ antibiotics wisely as well as use good hygiene measures to take preventive action against possible infections with multi-resistant bacteria.

Our bodies are teeming with bacteria. This is not necessarily a bad thing: most bacteria are harmless or even useful, for example for our digestion. Some bacteria, however, can cause illness if they enter our bloodstream or urinary tract unintentionally. Treatment with antibiotics often provides a quick remedy. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, because some pathogens are also resistant to them.

Bacteria can either be intrinsically resistant to certain antibiotic groups because they do not possess the required structure (e.g. a specific protein), or they become resistant because they can suddenly degrade the active substances of the antibiotic groups enzymatically due to mutations or the exchange of genetic material with other pathogens. If bacteria are resistant to one or more antibiotic groups, they are referred to as multidrug-resistant organisms (MDRO).

This can make treatment especially difficult for older or immunocompromised patients. At the same time, the increasing number of hospitalisations can overburden our health system and weaken it economically. Two important measures can help prevent these problems: The careful and informed use of antibiotical agents and infection prevention.

Illustration: From 18 - 24 November 2021, the WHO's World Antimicrobial Week will take place and raise awareness of multidrug-resistant pathogens.
From 18 - 24 November 2021, the WHO's World Antimicrobial Week will take place and raise awareness of multidrug-resistant pathogens.

Use antibiotics wisely

Incorrect or excessive use of antibiotics is considered the main driver for the development of resistance in humans and animals. When using antibiotics, it is thus important to consider …

… the correct antimicrobial spectrum of an antibiotic.

… the correct dosage.

… adherence to the recommended treatment duration.

Infection prevention

Inadequate basic hygiene in hospitals as well as in daily life (e.g. in public spaces or in developing countries) can favour the transmission of resistant pathogens. It is therefore important to provide education and promote understanding about …

… access to clean water.

… adequate hand hygiene.

… successful vaccination campaigns.

But this does not only apply to antibiotics:

Bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites are all capable of becoming resistant to antimicrobial drugs. Since last year, World Antimicrobial Awareness Week has thus also begun drawing attention to the correct use of so-called antimicrobials.

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It is important to note that the fight against resistant pathogens – just like the fight against the Corona-pandemic – can only be successful on a global basis. Factors outside the health sector, such as the supply of antibiotics in factory farming, must also be tackled, as must the education of every individual in their everyday lives. So let’s take matters into our own hands (but only after sufficient hand hygiene!) and consider what we can contribute by using antibiotics responsibly.

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