Not only overuse of antibiotics but poor hygiene and sanitation can also result in anti-microbial resistance
Researchers found that there is a critical need to improve sanitation and hygiene in both urban and rural areas, to slow down the spread of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria
Due to antimicrobial resistance, the treatment of diseases like HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and malaria has become a major challenge. In the 2015 survey by the World Health Organisation, it was found that in India, 75 percent of the patients are prescribed antibiotics for minor colds and flu, which can otherwise be cured without any medicine. They also found that only 58 percent of the people knew that they need to stop taking antibiotics only once they finish the entire course and not just when they start feeling better.
Doctors have seen that the infections caused by antimicrobial-resistant organisms result in increased deaths and a prolonged duration of hospitalisation. The cost of healthcare for these patients is higher than care for patients with non-resistant infections as they require additional tests and are given more expensive drugs for the treatment.
Usually, antimicrobial resistance arises if the prescribed course of antimicrobials is not completed by the patient or there is an overprescription of any antimicrobial which can result in its resistance. However, in recent research published in the journal Scientific Reports, scientists found that poor hygiene could also be one of the reasons for the increases in antimicrobial resistance.
Antimicrobial resistance can be simply put as the ability of a disease-causing microorganism (such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites) to withstand any antimicrobial therapy, which includes antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, antimalarials, and anthelmintics. These microorganisms that become antimicrobial-resistant, are also known as superbugs.
Poor hygiene practices resulting in antimicrobial resistance
Researchers from Washington State University (WSU) and Universidad del Vale de Guatemala (UVG) found that there is a critical need to improve sanitation and hygiene in both urban and rural areas, to slow down the spread of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria.
WSU and UVG have already been working on large-scale research which aims at explaining how the use and regulation of antibiotics, the access of humans and animals to the healthcare services, and sanitation can affect antimicrobial resistance in countries with both high and low income.
The scientists surveyed different people from the rural and urban households of Guatemalan communities to track the spread of antimicrobial-resistant Escherichia coli bacteria, which is usually found in contaminated water and can result in acute diarrhoea. The scientists examined different aspects of the community such as the population density, their access to antibiotic therapies, sanitation facilities, access to clean water, ways of food preparation, milk consumption and prevalence of open defecation.
The results of the survey showed that antimicrobial-resistance was found in people who had an increased incidence of antibiotic use, had poor household sanitation, consumed milk on a regular basis, and had frequent episodes of diarrhoea.
The scientists conclude that in order to reduce the prevalence of antimicrobial resistance, access to antibiotics needs to be controlled better along with ensuring hygiene in every household.
For more information, read our article on Precautions to take with antibiotics.
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