Bacteria vs. humans: how to fight in this world war?


Medical illustration of clindamycin-resistant group B Streptococcus bacteria (Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Hala KHARMOUDI, a third-year medical student in Marrakech, Morocco. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Our world can be simulated to a rollercoaster that only goes up. Day after the other, it is proven that the progress is unavoidable, perhaps even phenomenal evolution is recorded exponentially in every field. One century was enough to eradicate many diseases, to save millions, to lengthen life expectancies and to make our existence painless and complacent. However, this evolvement tends to be drilled with defects. In fact, if antibiotics have been saving lives since FLEMING’s discovery in 1928, nowadays, their threat is alarming. As we are all aware, human’s excess in antibiotics use has issued a destructive battle expressly: The antimicrobial resistance. Ergo, how can we, professionals from different backgrounds unite in this prevailing fight?

In normal times, antibiotics control infections and limit bacterial infestations, curing readily the infirmity. In spite of that, bacteria don’t stand idle. It fights back fiercely developing resistance upon irrational anti-biotherapies. One bacterium among a hundred masters the art of resistance by genes mutations. Moreover, shocking statistics display that up to one million die per year on the grounds of AMR. Hence, faced to this severe threat to the global public health, serious actions must be taken by individuals and collectivities resulting to halting this unfortunate scourge.

First and foremost, health care professionals must act. As proficients and first class soldiers in this war, It is a must for specialists and general practitioners to make optimal use of antimicrobials by providing the right prescription at the right time with exact doses. Furthermore the professional staff should guarantee, by establishing good communication, safe access to clear information for the entirety. Patients must respect knowingly the duration of the intake regardless of whether they feel better or not.  On a larger scale, programmes developed by national and international organisms appear useful in reducing rates of AMR such as Antibiotic stewardship programmes providing doctors and pharmacists with the knowledge to educate patients that antibiotics will not work for a virus.

Moreover, farmers should also be alarmed that they are part of this by making use of antibiotics in animal husbandry. Consequently, modern agriculture can give rise to AMR resistances in bacteria found in food animals to the antibiotics being administered (through injections or medicated feeds).

Above and beyond, The “Interagency Coordination Group on Antimicrobial Resistance” stated in 2018 that “the spread of pathogens through unsafe water results in a high burden of gastrointestinal disease, increasing even further the need for antibiotic treatment.” In other words, Water supply and sanitation infrastructure   in health facilities offer significant co-benefits for combating AMR, and investment should be increased by authorities.

Finally, yet importantly, raising awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance through communication, media, trainings, education and other platforms is a crucial measure to combat AMR. Therewith, as medical students and social activists, we take part in this fight mainly by sensitizing campaigns for students, for healthcare professionals and for the rest of the world. IFMSA and IFMSA Morocco (International Federation of Medical Students Associations) earnestly envision fighting this battle by recruiting all medical students and future practitioners to activate the awareness-raising and enlarge the spectrum of consciousness regarding the emblematic matter.

In short, we are facing a global issue. The combat is declared. If AMR is a fire fueled by negligence, ignorance and excess, the strike back will be with awareness, education and rationalization. Lives are endangered in the AMR era, thus, all forces should unite in one large unbreakable chain which will limit the flood of resistant strains.

About the author

Hala KHARMOUDI is a third-year medical student in Marrakech, Morocco. She joined IFMSA MOROCCO to become a social activist advocating for Human rights as well as global sexual and public health. She is a local officer on reproductive and sexual health and rights including HIV and AIDS. Constantly living with the big aim of initiating change in her community by breaking taboos and fighting silence, she works hard, looks forward to a better future and builds herself throughout social work. Writing is, thus, a passion fueled by love, perfectionism and motivation in order to make her dreams come true.

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