An expert group has called for inclusion of specific lessons in the school curriculum to tackle an impending health crisis posed by antibiotic resistance.
The observation was made following a study on antibiotic use and antimicrobial resistance in India carried out by researchers from VP Chest Institute and the anthropology department of Delhi University, and microbiologists from Sir Ganga Ram Hospital (SGRH) and the department of essential drugs and other medicines of World Health Organisation’s South East Asia Region.
According to the group, which held discussions with students and teachers in two private and three public schools in five municipal wards of Delhi, students had a poor knowledge regarding antibiotics and antibiotic resistance, and only some teachers had a basic understanding.
The teachers were also not very sure about what antibiotic resistance is or about its causes and consequences.”Resistance basically means, it is safe… Immunity power.Otherwise, the disease may affect the children,” said one teacher.
Another teacher thought that as antibiotics are strong, they decrease the body’s immunity , the expert group reported in its research paper published in the latest issue of Indian Journal of Pharmacology .
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Almost all students, from Class IX to XI, felt that antibiotics are a form of ‘tagdi dawa’ or ‘strong medicine’ to be taken in special conditions. Antibiotic resistance is a resistance of bacteria, such as E Coli which causes gastroenteritis or urinary tract infections, to a drug to which it was originally sensitive. According to Dr Chand Wattal, co-author of the study and chairman, department of clinical microbiology , SGRH, antibiotics were used by both groups for mild viral conditions often directly purchased from pharmacies without a valid prescription or taken from left-over previous purchases. “Both groups, however, showed keen interest in raising public awareness concerning antibiotic and antibiotic resistance,” added Dr Anita Kotwani, main author and consultant, department of pharmacology , VP Chest Institute.
She said school education programs and public education could be used to shape correct perceptions about antibiotic use among all stakeholders, including children.”This may help in the containment of antibiotic resistance and thus preservation of antibiotics for future generations,” Dr Kotwani said.
WHO director general Margaret Chan had recently termed the rise of antimicrobial resistance as a global health crisis. Medicines are losing more and more mainstay as pathogens develop resistance and the second-line treatments are less effective, more costly , more toxic, and sometimes extremely difficult to administer, Chan said.
The experts warn if the current trends continue modern medicine will end. Sophisticated interventions like organ transplantation, joint replacements, cancer chemotherapy , and care of pre-term infants, will become more difficult or even too dangerous to undertake.