– 21 November 2016: The Minister of Health and Quality of Life, Mr Anil Gayan, expressed concern regarding the use, misuse and abuse of antibiotics which is causing increasing antibiotic resistance. He was speaking at the opening of a workshop on the theme Antibiotics: Handle with care, held on 18 November 2016 at Gold Crest Hotel in Quatre Bornes in the context of World Antibiotic Awareness Week.
World Antibiotic Awareness Week was held from 14 to 20 November 2016 with a view to help raise awareness and understanding on antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria become resistant to the antibiotics used to treat the infections they cause. While antibiotic resistance happens naturally, the overuse and misuse of antibiotics has accelerated the process, leading to record high levels of antibiotic resistance which poses a major challenge to health, food security, and development. The objective of the workshop organised by the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life was to promote the judicious use of antibiotics in both humans and in animals.
On this occasion, the Minister underscored the negative impact of antibacterial resistance on the health care and economic system of a country. One of the consequences is the increase in the cost of health care with longer duration of illness, lengthier stays in hospitals, additional tests, use of more expensive drugs and more intensive care required. Moreover, without effective antimicrobials for prevention and treatment of infections, medical procedures become very high risk, leading to more deaths.
“Unfortunately, we have noticed that far too much antibiotics are being used in the country,” said the Minister, who added that in 2015, Mauritius used a total of 41,000,532 units of antibiotics. Out of this number, almost 40 million units were used in public hospitals. Recalling that the Central Health Laboratory monitors drug resistance to bacteria, Mr Gayan deplored the gradual rise in the antibiotic resistance of the bacterium Escherichia coli, which causes urinary tract infections, from 1% in 1998 to reach 61% in 2014, due to the overuse of antibiotics.
The findings of a study on prescriptions carried out last year by officers of the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life were also revealed by Mr Gayan who pointed out the irresponsible and unethical behaviour of certain doctors. Thus, it was found, among others, that the prescriptions are not written as being provided for in law; and that ¼ of antibiotic prescriptions are written by doctors when they are not absolutely sure that antibiotics are necessary.
As part of measures to address the problem, the Minister announced that a new policy regarding antibiotic treatment is under preparation. Pending the implementation of measures of the new policy, Mr Gayan urged health practitioners, agriculture officers, communities and people at large to adopt best practices to avoid the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance. “Everybody has to take some simple actions because unless the trend of antibiotic abuse is reversed, the future of humanity is bleak,” he cautioned.
World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2016
The World Health Organisation initiated the first edition of World Antibiotic Awareness Week last year, following the endorsement at the World Health Assembly of a global action plan, supported by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and the World Organisation for Animal Health, to tackle antimicrobial resistances.
The objectives of this year’s awareness week are four-fold: make antibiotic resistance a globally recognised health issue; raise awareness of the need to protect antibiotics through appropriate use; increase recognition of the role that individuals, governments, and human and animal health and agriculture professionals must all play in tackling antibiotic resistance; and encourage behaviour change as well as convey the message that simple actions can make a huge difference.