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UWI lecturer warns against misuse of antibiotics

Saturday, November 17, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Head of the Microbiology Department, University of the West Indies (UWI), Dr Alison Nicholson, saysoveruse and misuse of antibiotics is affecting their effectiveness in treating infections, resulting in arapid emergence of resistant bacteria worldwide.

Dr Nicholson noted that “bacteria have learned the secrets of how antibiotics work and are outsmarting them”.

“Some of them (bacteria) have very elaborate mechanisms while some are simple, so when you use an antibiotic and expect it to go into the organism, the bacteria have these sprouts that just push it back out. That tells you they are learning the tricks, so the more you take antibiotics unnecessarily, the more you expose them to the bugs that learn how to outsmart them,” Dr Nicholson said.

She was speaking at a World Antibiotic Awareness Week Agriculture Day event at the Knox College Auditorium in Spalding, Clarendon, on Thursday (November 15).

Dr Nicholson said that UWI has been monitoring antibiotic resistance locally for some time, and cautioned against the routine administration of the drugs to animals.

“There is compelling evidence showing that what happens in one sector affects another sector,” she said.

“We now know that the animal industry is a major player in the development of antibiotic resistance,so it is important to work together to push back against the microbes that have ganged up on us…in order to reverse this dangerous trend of antibiotic resistance,” Dr Nicholson said.

Meanwhile, Executive Director of the Bureau of Standards Jamaica, Stephen Wedderburn, who represented Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Audley Shaw, said the matter of antimicrobial resistance and the global response to this threat is of great importance to Jamaica.

“Antibiotic resistance threatens the effective treatment and control of infections, often resulting in prolonged illness and even death, so the growing resistance of microorganisms to the curative effect of antibiotics is of very serious concern to human and animal health professionals worldwide,” he said.

He noted that some 60 per cent of the pathogens causing infections in humans originate in animals, leading to an inextricable link between animal and human health.

“Any attempt to alleviate this threat must take a one-health approach with man, animal and the environment all intertwined,” he said.

Wedderburn said that Jamaica has established a technical working group involving representatives from several sectors and disciplines, including health, agriculture and academia, to place the issue on the national agenda.

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