YOUth should know: 4 things about antimicrobial resistance

Antimicrobial resistance is one of the top ten global public health threats to humanity.

Tricia Kuan

A tiny coffee addict with a really weird frog obsession.

Published: 21 November 2022, 10:11 PM

You are feeling under the weather and decide to pay a visit to the clinic. Just as you’re about to leave the consultation room, you recalled your parents’ reminder to request for antibiotics so that you can “recover faster”. Sheepishly, you turn back and ask your doctor if he can prescribe you some.

While this might seem like a harmless request, unbeknown to many, overusing antibiotics can result in Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), AMR is a global health and development threat. WHO has also declared it as one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity.

With World Antimicrobial Awareness Week taking place from Nov 18 to 24, Youthopia reached out to Dr Lee Tau Hong, head of the Antimicrobial Resistance Coordinating Office at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), to learn more about AMR. 

Here are some things youths should know about AMR to keep themselves safe:

1. What is AMR and how does it come about?

AMR occurs naturally when microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi change over time and no longer respond to the antimicrobial agents used to treat them, such as antibiotics and antivirals. This renders antimicrobials ineffective, making infections harder to treat with an increased risk of disease spread.

Antibiotics are the most common antimicrobial agent one can encounter, and only work by stopping the growth of bacteria or killing them. 

Misusing or overusing antibiotics is what results in the increase of antimicrobial-resistant pathogens on a global scale, Dr Lee shared.

2. What is the impact of AMR?

According to Dr Lee, AMR could cause up to ten million deaths worldwide per year by 2050 without any intervention. A recent publication in The Lancet, a leading medical journal, estimated that 4.95 million deaths worldwide were associated with bacterial AMR in 2019. 

AMR rates are also escalating faster than new antibiotics can be developed. This could result in common infections being harder to treat or even become untreatable.

Should this continue, consequences would likely include longer treatment periods, longer hospital stays, higher medical costs, severe illness and even death, Dr Lee explained.

3. When should antibiotics be used? How can overuse be identified and avoided?

Antibiotics are only effective when used against infections caused by bacteria and not viruses or viral infections.

Examples of bacterial infections include meningitis, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and urinary tract infections. Viral infections include the common cold, influenza, measles, HIV and COVID-19.

“Use antibiotics appropriately by refraining from demanding antibiotics from your doctor, especially when having the common cold or the flu. Instead, seek your doctor’s or pharmacist’s advice on how best to manage your symptoms,” Dr Lee advised.

It is also best to follow the instructions provided by a doctor and individuals should refrain from sharing antibiotics or saving them for later use, he added.

4. How can AMR be prevented?

People can combat and prevent AMR by maintaining good hygiene practices such as washing hands with soap frequently, and staying home when feeling unwell. These will prevent illness and the spread of germs to loved ones, Dr Lee shared.

Another way one can prevent AMR is to ensure their vaccinations are up-to-date, which will boost immunity and prevent illness.

AMR does not respect age and can affect anyone at any time. Youths can refer to NCID’s website and Facebook page for information and educational posts on AMR.

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