Superbugs – Are we at fault?

I recently saw a play ‘The Vaidya’s Oath’ by Gautham Raja. It was a thought provoking play and talked about the over usage of antibiotics and the effect of it. It was a well-researched play. Click here for more about the play.

The objective of the play, I thought, was to educate the audience about the over use of antibiotics (even when not required) and the effects of not taking the full course which causes the ‘superbug’ or resistant bacteria to emerge.

In 1929, Sir Alexander Fleming discovered Penicillin, the super drug and the first antibiotic, which successfully killed bacteria. The advent of antibiotics must have saved a multitude of people over the last 80 years or so.

Sir Alexander Fleming said “It is not difficult to make microbes resistant to penicillin in the laboratory by exposing them to concentrations not sufficient to kill them, and the same thing has occasionally happened in the body. The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops. Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily under-dose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.” Many of the bacteria which cause epidemics have evolved into multi-drug resistant bacteria because of over use of antibiotics says an article ‘Origins and Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance’ written in the American Society for Microbiology.

In India, it is common to buy antibiotics over the counter. You see people taking antibiotics at the drop of a hat, when they start getting a cold or a cough. Doctors prescribe it without testing to see if it is a viral or bacterial infection. People stop taking it once the feel better. That day has come! Do they realize that this could not just cause them harm but all mankind?

Sir Fleming said ‘ignorant men’ may underdose themselves. But is it not the role of a doctor or pharmacist to educate ‘the ignorant man’? Is it not the duty of the media to educate people about these ‘superbugs’? This is a good example of cause and effect.

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