Thandeka Moyo- Ndlovu , Health Reporter
PEOPLE who misuse or self-prescribe antibiotics are at a high risk of developing antimicrobial resistance (AMR) which has contributed to making sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and other diseases drug resistant in Zimbabwe.
This comes at a time when the country joins the world in marking the Antimicrobial Awareness Week amid calls for members of the public to stop taking antibiotics without consulting medical experts.
AMR occurs when disease and infection causing bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.
As a result of drug resistance, antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines become ineffective and infections become increasingly difficult or impossible to treat.
Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association spokesperson Dr Tawanda Zvakada says despite being one of the commonest forms of medicine in Zimbabwe, antibiotics are the most abused.
He said people are also in the habit of not adhering to instructions that often come with the antibiotics which tends to weaken the system’s failure to process the medication.
“STIs are quite common in Zimbabwe and because of stigma, people are still too shy to go to public institutions to seek proper health care as they fear being judged. They end up self-prescribing to treat the infections and this leads to resistance where you find someone struggling to deal with a certain ailment later in life because they had been previously abusing antibiotics,” said Dr Zvakada.
He said most STIs are often treated by antibiotics and people are quick to illegally get the common tablets like Cotrimoxazole and Amoxicillin which are readily available on the market.
He urged people to be careful and always seek medical attention before self-prescribing medication.
“People are not using antibiotics in a rational manner and the truth is it’s not always that when they fall sick, they need an antibiotic. If people are not careful, we will end up failing to treat many of these diseases due to resistance and this will lead to compromised quality of life and even death,” said Dr Zvakada.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care in it’s One Health Antimicrobial Resistance National Action Plan 2017-2021 says one major driver of resistance is increased antimicrobial consumption in both humans and animals.
“Zimbabwe has faced serious economic challenges over the years, which have affected all aspects of life, not least of which is the health sector’s ability to provide health care, and which has resulted in a shortage of health-care workers and stock outs of medicines. The country faces significant and growing resistance in common infections such as TB, malaria, HIV, respiratory infections, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), urinary tract infections (UTIs), meningitis and diarrheal diseases,” says the Ministry.
The country also faces challenges related to meaningful surveillance data to help understand resistance patterns, prevalent organisms and guide policy development, due to constraints in the laboratory testing systems.
Statistics according to the Ministry show that a significant dent has been made in the occurrence of rotavirus diarrhoea through vaccination
“However, the persistent challenges of poor water, sanitation and hygiene practices have kept diarrhoea cases related to typhoid and other bacteria causes as common occurrences. Whilst oral rehydration with zinc, is the standard treatment of choice for diarrhoea, antibiotics are often used and resistance is spreading.”[email protected]