Monday, March 11, 2013

The Ignorant Man vs The Intelligent Bug

” 80 % of sore throat and common cold are viral, but 80 % of the people who get them take antibiotics” a very senior professor remarked at a scientific session here a few days ago, a tragedy this is of sort of which we all have been a part since the time Fleming found the penicillin. Today self prescriptions at four out of five times are far from rationality. Professional prescriptions are not any far behind. With times it has just gotten harder, and when I find at least one bug a day on an average resistant to sixteen of the seventeen antibiotics tested in the laboratory, and the generation time of a bacteria on an average being twenty minutes it gives me a compelling reason to speak about it.

Where do we draw the line when it comes to taking or prescribing antibiotics, or can we? Well this is something which we should be concerned about before a cough takes us or anyone whom we know to the intensive care unit and gives a comma, at times even a full stop. The point is it is hard not to care, it is hard not to hope to get well. Antibiotics give relief, or so is our belief. One easy way to procure them is the neighbourhood pharmacy, where Amox is equal to candies and Norflox are not any less than toffees. The more you pop them the more gratifying it gets. The other end of the problem is the lack of a uniform antibiotic policy which is flexible enough to be applicable to all health care set ups across the country. There is a lot more to superbugs than just medical tourism. Not to forget is the charge at the ‘doctor’s shop’, you know the two or three small notes at the barber’s shop, well it’s just a ‘little’ higher than that you have to part with. Who does not want to save money, duh! What the doctor  gave thy neighbour shall work for me this time, well that is the popular idea.

This silent epidemic has already gained its momentum. Bacteria are developing all kinds of new mutations and have all plasmids possible. We are much behind, there have been no new molecules to target them past few decades. All we can do right now is try out all kinds of permutations and combinations. If ain’t wrong it is hard for a doctor to decide whether to stop a course of antibiotic  or not rather than when to start one! And when there are bigger health issues in place, problems such as these do not come out into the open. It has to be a plague, it has to be a swine flu. Not until then. Fleming had warned in his Nobel Lecture by the way:

 -Alexander Fleming in Nobel Lecture, 1945-



AA said...

Nice and kinda scary post! Am suffering from sore throat for a month now and I've done all that u've mentioned abt OTC medicines. So wat shld/does a common man do? Ayurveda and Homeopathy are slow healers. Agree that there is no treatment for Cold and cough especially but the relief one gets is comforting.Any other solutions?

Raksha Bhat said...

@AA: Practically it is tough to give anyone a general suggestion, what we need to understand is that we are not dealing with a problem to find a solution, it is about health and therefore what we need is treatment, which is very individualized. There are a hundred other things which balances the equation:)