Qatar’s main health-care provider is urging residents to avoid overusing antibiotics as new research shows that drug-resistant bacteria has gained a foothold in this country.
This afternoon, Hamad Medical Corp. published a statement that called the emergence of antimicrobial resistance “a major threat to public health across the globe.”
The declaration follows a World Health Organization report published several weeks ago about the threat posed by antimicrobial resistance. That includes antibiotic resistance, which occurs when a bacteria evolves so that common drugs become ineffective in combating infections.
The overuse of antibiotics is widely thought to accelerate the speed at which bacteria adapt to traditional treatments. In a statement, Dr. Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s assistant director-general for health security, said:
“Without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill.”
Implications in Qatar
The WHO report documented the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria across the globe, including in Qatar.
Citing research collected as far back as 2007, researchers note that between 27 and 40 percent of E. coli samples – which can cause serious food poisoning – collected in Qatar studies were resistant to fluoroquinolones and third-generation cephalosporins, two drugs commonly used to treat the bacteria.
Similarly, some 13 percent of staphylococcus aureus samples – a bacteria known to cause skin infections and respiratory diseases – were found to be resistant to methicillin, which is a form of penicillin.
The results are not out of line with the prevalence of drug-resistant bacteria elsewhere in Gulf or around the world. Because sample size and survey methodology differs, the number of identified cases of E. coli resistant to those two antibiotics range from 0 to 91 percent in the Eastern Mediterranean region, of which Qatar is a part.
HMC’s infectious diseases clinical pharmacist, Dr. Eyad Tawfiq Mohamed Al Madhoun, said physicians prescribing unnecessary antibiotics is one reason behind the growth of drug-resistant bacterias. In a statement, he said:
“Some doctors tend to prescribe antibiotics for patients when it is not necessary. Some
viral infections are self-limiting, so the infected persons only need support therapy but when antibiotics is prescribed in such situation, the bacteria is exposed to the antibiotics and it may adapt to the molecules of the drug thus causing resistance.”
HMC officials could not immediately say whether any new directors had been given to doctors.
But Al Madhoun cautioned patients against improperly using antibiotics by, for example, self-medicating or not taking the prescribed dosage.
And in the past, Qatar officials have temporarily shut down pharmacies for selling antibiotics and other drugs without a prescription.
HMC also suggested residents take precautions to avoid getting sick in the first place and negating the need for an antibiotic prescription by practicing proper personal hygiene, such as hand washing.