Deadly superbug in Australia, Japan, China, Taiwan, India and Korea—is the Philippines next?

A SERIOUS THREAT TO OUR HEALTH, the deadly super bacteria, also known as “superbug”, has already spread to Southeast Asia, Europe and North America. There is no known cure for a superbug infection, since it is resistant to most commonly prescribed antibiotics, including the carbapenems, the most powerful antibiotics created by medical science. Are Filipinos in danger?
So far, one man in Belgium has been confirmed by the media to have died from a new superbug infection in June of 2010. This infection was caused by a superbug that contains what scientists call an NDM-1 mutation.

Superbugs with the NDM-1 mutation have already infected patients in India, Pakistan, the UK, the U.S., Australia, Japan and other Asian countries like China, Taiwan and Korea. The real number of actual deaths from NDM-1 may not be known—one health expert in Australia said, since the superbug has been around for quite some time in developing countries like India and Pakistan, there are no reliable records as to how many have actually died from the disease.

There is no known cure for super bacteria infections—prevention is the only option we have.

The Philippines’ Department of Health released a warning about superbugs in April 2011. According to a report on the website of Philippine News Daily, Dr. Eric Tayag, head of the DOH-National Epidemiology Center (NEC) warned that treatment for a superbug infection will be very difficult, since there is no drug that is effective against it. It would also be difficult to stop it from entering  the country due to the great number of travelers from abroad who arrive every day.


Worldwide concern

NDM-1 stands for New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase. The very first cases of superbugs with NDM-1 were recorded in New Delhi, India. Beta-lactamase is an enzyme produced by superbugs that neutralize antibiotics. Even more worrisome is that the NDM-1 mutation can be passed from one type of bacteria to another, so that more and more types of bacteria become antibiotic-resistant as well.

Health agencies like the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and even our own Department of Health have expressed concern over superbugs and how they have the potential to cause a pandemic, or worldwide infections. Are we going to just sit around and wait for superbugs to infect our loved ones?


Antibiotic misuse is the problem

The misuse of antibiotics is being blamed for causing the emergence of superbugs. While antibiotics are very effective in killing bacteria, we have to use these drugs properly. When we use antibiotics the wrong way, not all of the bacteria are killed—the surviving bacteria then have the chance to develop mutations that make them resistant to antibiotics.

Widespread misuse of antibiotics in the Philippines, if not stopped, will eventually create new strains of superbugs that will have no cure, endangering us all, especially children and the elderly.

The only way to respond to this threat is to prevent the spread of the deadly superbug by promoting compliance to proper use of antibiotics. It’s the only way to protect ourselves from infections, illnesses and even death caused by these new antibiotic-resistant super bacteria. 

Fight bacteria the right way

Consult a doctor before buying antibiotics. A doctor is the most qualified professional to guide you on what antibiotics you need to take for your illness.
Do not rely on own judgment or the advice of relatives and friends when buying antibiotics.

Self-medicating of antibiotics without or against a doctor’s advice poses a big problem. Due to lack of knowledge, some people believe that all antibiotics are the same, or that if an antibiotic worked for a relative or friend, it will work for them too. Some people also recycle their doctor’s old prescriptions and take the same antibiotics.

There are appropriate antibiotics for specific kinds of illnesses. Using a wrong antibiotic for a certain illness carries a greater health risk. Taking the wrong type of antibiotic may fail to kill the infectious bacteria inside the body. Eventually, these surviving bacteria may develop resistance to antibiotics.

When taking antibiotics, compliance is key - finish the entire dosage as prescribed by your doctor. There are patients who take the right antibiotics but fail to complete the entire recommended dosage.

Some people wrongly believe that once he feels better, he’s already cured and it’s okay to stop taking medicine.  This is a wrong conception. Even if a person starts to feel better, there are still surviving bad bacteria in his body.  Failing to complete the dosage will allow surviving bacteria to become superbugs.

Another reason is lack of money to purchase the complete dosage of prescribed antibiotics. Patients who try to save money on antibiotics may scrimp on their purchases and buy only as much antibiotics as they can afford. When they run out of money or start to feel better, they stop buying the antibiotic.

Some patients do not understand that they are only wasting money when they self-medicate or take medicines in wrong dosages, as these practices make their health worse. Taking the wrong or an incomplete dosage of antibiotics will promote the development of superbugs or lead to a more serious health threat to themselves and others.

Prevention is still the best cure. Practicing personal hygiene goes a long way in preventing bacterial infection and illness. Wash hands regularly and thoroughly, especially before meals and after using the restroom. This and other hygiene practices should become routine in our daily life.


Antibiotics Compliance Campaign

Pharmacy retail chain WATSONS PHARMACY and pharmaceutical manufacturer UNILAB are launching a joint campaign to teach and promote antibiotic compliance.  The campaign aims to address the issue of antibiotic misuse and prevent the emergence of superbugs in the Philippines.

The campaign seeks to enlighten and empower Filipino consumers to prevent antibiotic resistance in their communities. WATSONS PHARMACY has competent and knowledgeable pharmacists who can give consumers advice on the proper use of antibiotics. Those who need additional medication advice on how to properly use the antibiotics prescribed to them may conveniently consult with their Watsons pharmacists. 

UNILAB on the other hand will complement this effort by providing consumers with high-quality and effective antibiotics at lower prices. This is good news for Filipinos who need effective treatment for illnesses. The lower prices also make it easier for consumers to complete the full antibiotics dose.

The joint campaign between UNILAB and WATSONS PHARMACY has a two-pronged approach to fighting superbugs. UNILAB provides the antibiotics supply while WATSONS PHARMACY provides the knowledge and consultation regarding the antibiotics’ proper use. This not only helps more people get cured but also prevents superbug emergence.

We must fight the superbug now before it’s too late. Do not self medicate.  Comply to your doctor’s advice and educate yourself about proper antibiotic use and correct personal hygiene practices.

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