Prime minister Sheikh Hasina has rightly identified the next worst enemy in the global public health system after COVID-19. The number of effective antibiotics is declining, she said. And that could turn into a more deadly epidemic than the ongoing COVID-19. Sheikh Hasina, as the co-chair at the launch of the global platform 'One Health Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance', said this on Friday night. Undoubtedly, Bangladesh has been going through a fragile situation for a long time due to poor healthcare and lack of awareness.
According to a study by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, 70-80 per cent of patients in the intensive care unit of the hospital die of super-bug bacterial infection. And 25 per cent of bacteria are resistant to all types of antibiotics available in the market. In addition, ciprofloxacin has become ineffective in 60 per cent of typhoid fever. Although the seasonal fever and cold-cough are mainly viral, the harsh reality is that patients take antibiotics and then abruptly stop after getting better following two or three doses. This helps the germs to grow stronger.
Taking antibiotics inappropriately and in wrong doses are the key reasons for antibiotic resistance in Bangladesh. In the meantime, COVID-19 has hit. Like many other parts of the world, Bangladeshi people jumped onto antibiotics that are readily available and cheap. However, no administrative measures have been taken to stop these from being readily available.
Sohail Mahmud Arafat, chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), said in an interview with Prothom Alo last August that the government's regulatory authority needed to intervene. He said that it is a big concern whether antibiotic-resistant epidemic (antibiotic resistance epidemic) will occur in Bangladesh after the coronavirus outbreak ends. But we are seeing that in all the cities, big and small, expensive antibiotics are being given in the hospitals to prevent the symptoms of COVID. People can easily buy antibiotics from the drug stores in the villagea. There is no massive campaign to raise awareness to prevent this. This is the most important issue right now.
The government must provide alternative tools to cure the disease besides preventing people from taking antibiotics unnecessarily. An antibiotic is usually identified based on the culture sensitivity of the bacterium. But it requires a lab to prepare a culture report and analyse this. This will require ensuring adequate workforce throughout the country.
The prime minister mentioned that Bangladesh has adopted a national plan on antimicrobial resistance containment for the period 2017-2022. But the question is what success has Bangladesh achieved by adopting this plan in the last three years? Around 700,000 people worldwide die each year from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. If 50,000 people die every year in Europe and the United States alone, it is quite understandable what could be the situation in Bangladesh if necessary actions are not taken immediately.
Experts agree that sales of antibiotics are higher than at any time in the past. Antibiotics cannot be sold in the developed world without proper documents. Like many other sensitive areas in our country, there is no control over the matter here. This is the biggest concern. It should be resolved.