Antibiotic Resistance

By Hemant Kumar|Updated : November 20th, 2019

WHO(world health organization) in 2015 launched an ‘Antibiotic Handle With Care’ campaign. Before beginning is discussions about the campaign and why we need to give special attention while using antibiotic is to understand a few terms regarding antibiotic.

Key terms essential for understanding the article:

  • Antibiotic -It is a type of antimicrobial substance active against bacteria, which may either kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria. They are not much effective against viruses such as the common cold, flu, influenza etc.
  • Antibiotic resistance –It is the ability of a microbe to resist the drug which was once successful in treating the microbe.

Superbug- Superbug is defined as a microorganism that has become resistant to a commonly used antibiotic.  Why should we give special attention while using an antibiotic?

  • Ineffective care while using antibiotics results in overuse or underutilization of drugs(antibiotic) which becomes a prominent cause for microbial resistance. 
  • As per unites states pharmacopeial convention, antibiotic resistance is not only a threat to human survival (as it is claiming 700,000 lives annually) but creates a hindrance in the development of new vaccines.
  • Impact on economy: As per interagency coordination group on antimicrobial resistance(IACG)’S report titled “No time to wait: Securing The future from drug-resistant infections “, Antimicrobial resistance would cause a loss of 3.8% to world’s GDP by 2050. Also, will push 24 million people into extreme poverty by 2030.
  • Such resistance while has a differential impact on a developed and developing country. Thus, it would further widen the gap between north and south.

You must be thinking “How can we give special care while using antibiotic”. For understanding that firstly we need to understand what the reasons behind antibiotic resistance are.

  • Quality of medicine: Medicine with a lower dose of the active ingredient, can lead to resistance. Even combined drugs are also becoming the cause of increasing resistance. 
  • On account of healthcare professionals: Overprescription and self-medication of over the counter drugs via pharmacy increases antimicrobial resistance.
  • Patients behaviour: patients don’t timely finishes their treatment course of antibiotic if some complete the course they don’t appear for follow-ups. Some even leave the treatment when the medication starts showing signs of improvement.
  • Non-disposal of pharmaceutical waste: Often, rules are flouted by the pharmaceutical industry while disposing of waste. Such improper disposal of waste results in escalating resistance because such waste enters the food cycle. 
  • Lack of WASH facilities (clean drinking water, sanitation, healthcare waste management, hygiene and environment cleaning infrastructure, etc.).
  • Genetic mutation creates natural immunity against the vaccines.
  • Lack of focus on research and development of new vaccines.
  • Even, in some cases, public bathing has also been found as a cause for antibiotic resistance, e.g. superbug was found in Ganga river.
  • Increasing use of drugs for treating livestock.

After understanding the causes and consequences, we can easily think of ‘how to handle antibiotics with care.

  • Role of General public: Only use antibiotics when prescribed by healthcare professionals, not using leftover antibiotic, not sharing antibiotic with others etc.
  • Role of health workers: Prescribing and dispensing the right antibiotic at the right dose for the right duration, only prescribing medicines if they are truly needed.
  • Role of policymakers: Forming a robust national action plan against resistance, regulate and promote the appropriate use of quality medicines.
  • Role of agriculture sector: Farmer should ensure that antibiotic given to animals are given only under the supervision of doctors, vaccinate animals to reduce the need for antibiotic etc.
  • Role of international agencies, industries and NGO: Multi-stakeholder approach for fighting against resistance like Melinda gates foundation against the resistance. Also, increases research activities in finding the cure to the resistant microbe.

Some additional information:

  • Redline campaign launched by the health ministry for countering microbial resistance and creating awareness about using medicines with red line only after doctors prescription. Such campaign checks the irrational use of drugs.
  • Implementing strategies proposed by WHO’s global action plan on antimicrobial resistance.


Antibiotic resistance has become a menace for human survival. Thus, the need of the hour is to follow the above ‘HANDLE WITH CARE’ strategy to prevent the world from entering into a post-antibiotic era.   


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