• Whenever we feel sick it is often an indication that some harm causing microorganisms to have nested in our bodies.
• In order to kill them and give you relief, doctors administer drugs developed specifically for that purpose.
How do you consume your medicine? Do you get medicines from the hospital or the chemist at the corner of the street?
Do you always have a prescription, or do you know what you really need to treat your ailment?
Apparently, how we consume drugs, especially those meant to cure diseases caused by microorganisms can be dangerous to you and other human beings.
And it’s not just you, it’s also to your livestock and the environment.
Whenever we feel sick it is often an indication that some harm causes microorganisms to have nested in our bodies.
In order to kill them and give them relief, doctors administer drugs developed specifically for that purpose.
They call them antimicrobials. Once consumed in the body and carried in the bloodstream, they kill the microorganisms and restore your health and comfort.
However, you need only a specified quantity of these drugs to do the job, depending on the disease-causing microorganisms in your body and how strong their colonies are.
If the quantity is not right, it has the potential to cause harm.
Similarly, if the drug used is not the right one for the particular microbe responsible for your illness, it can also cause harm.
So, having less quantity of the microorganism-killing drug than necessary will not kill the microorganism.
Rather it will cause the micro-organisms to adapt to the drug and develop resistance.
The result is that you need a higher quantity or strength of the same drug over time to kill the microorganisms.
Similarly, if you use a larger quantity and strength of the drug than the right to kill the microbes, the body adjusts and needs an ever-increasing strength of the drug in order for it to work.
Eventually every drug will cease to be effective against the particular microbes.
This phenomenon is called antimicrobial resistance and it’s a big deal for our human health, animal health – both domestic and wild – and the environment.
The phenomenon applies similarly to Animals.
Again, if animals are infected by microbes and are given less or more than the right quantity or strength of the microbial killing drug, they develop resistance to that particular drug.
You will then need a stronger antimicrobial to heal them from what would have been healed by weaker ones.
Again, this resistance builds until there are no effective drugs against that particular microorganism.
Here is now where it gets scary. Under-dosing, overdosing or mis-dosing (Is there even anything like this!) are not the only problems with antimicrobials, commonly known as antibiotics.
Humans and animals pass through their urine, stools, eggs, milk or flesh residues of antibiotics into the environment. These residues are responsible for the presence of traces of antibiotics in the wrong places that cause microorganisms to develop resistance to drugs.
These traces find their way into the soil and water then into plants and back into human beings and animals when eaten as food or fodder.
The net effect is the development of ‘superbugs’, an ‘unbwogable’ type of disease-causing organisms that just mock antibiotics and are not killed or harmed by them.
If resistance is not addressed, it means humanity runs out of the range of disease-healing drugs available on the market today.
More people then will die of a lack of drugs to heal them of diseases that were once treatable.
So, what can we do to stop this phenomenon? We must all do our part. First, we must stop self-medicating.
Let the professionals do the job. We must also trust our health workers. If they say you do not need an antibiotic, then you do not need it.
Do not go to the chemist and ask to be sold a drug, just because you think it has worked for you before.
Only buy antibiotics if directed by a health practitioner. Make sure you finish any dose of medication given.
Do not share it with someone else or abandon it as soon as you feel better.
Finally, prevention is better than cure. Like covid has shown, many of the common infections we contract can be avoided by adopting common hygiene, such as washing hands, wearing masks or sanitising surfaces.
It is better for you, all human beings, all animals -and the environment generally - if we can minimise the use of antibiotics.
We would help strengthen our collective immunity and need fewer drugs.
This way we can live healthier lives, collectively, as true stewards that we are all supposed to be.
Samuel Kimeu Executive Director, Africa’s Voices Foundation, [email protected]