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Superbugs linked to 80% of deaths in Bangladeshi ICUs

  • Published at 10:31 am April 24th, 2019
Representational photo: Bigstock

Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan are seen as drivers of antimicrobial resistance

Antimicrobial resistant superbugs could be responsible for up to 80% of deaths in intensive care units (ICUs) in Bangladesh, a senior doctor has warned.

Prof Sayedur Rahman, chairman of Pharmacology Department at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), told the Telegraph that approximately 900 patients were admitted to the unit in 2018.

Of them, 400 died, he added.

Dr Sayedur said out of those deaths around 80% were attributed to a bacterial or fungal infection that was resistant to antibiotics, reports The Telegraph.

According to the article, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan are seen as drivers of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) because of: poor adherence to antibiotic treatment, the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics for growth promotion in farm animals, self-medication, and illegal over-the-counter access to antibiotics.

The chairman of BSMMU’s Pharmacology Department said: "Most patients [that die] come from public ICUs where there is strictly no AMR surveillance. 

“And this is the generator of antibacterial resistance." 

He said: "There should be more security...they [antibiotics] should not be available over the counter and others should only be dispensed at hospitals." 

According to a study published in the European Journal of Scientific Research, in 2015, over one-third of patients in Bangladesh surveyed were given antibiotics by people without authorization. 

The Chairman of the BSMMU Microbiology Department, Prof Ahmed Abu Saleh told a Bangladeshi news daily that the situation was not like this about 10 years ago.

He said around 70% of deaths across all ICUs in Bangladesh could be put down to superbugs. 

“Basically, there is no new antibiotic in the pipeline for future use. At the same time, the available antibiotic drugs are losing their effectiveness — which has made the scenario more dangerous,” Prof Ahmed said.

Around 10 million people could die, annually, by 2050 from AMR if effective measures are not taken regarding it, a report warned in 2016.

That figure is higher than the total number of people who died from cancer, diabetes, and diarrhoea in 2018.

Antimicrobial resistance occurs naturally over time as microorganisms undergo genetic changes. As microorganisms evolve, antibiotics can become less effective at treating an infection.

In South Asia, the prescription of incorrect or poor quality medicine leads to antimicrobial resistance. In many countries, stringent controls over prescribing medicine to animals are not upheld.

Antibiotics intended for human use are also given to animals in a bid to fatten them quickly and thus generate more profit. 

A study in Chittagong, found that over half of poultry chickens were infected with multi-drug resistant bacteria.

However, the emergence of AMR superbugs is not just a problem for South Asia, rather a worldwide issue.

A 2017 study in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases confirmed that the malaria parasite—in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam—had developed resistance to the artemisinin-based combination therapy prescribed to treat the disease.

Around the world, resistant strains of the HIV virus are thought to account for between 10% and 20% of infections and up to 40% of those are from re-starting medical treatment.