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Why won’t this bacterial infection go away?

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Why won’t this bacterial infection go away?

Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the disease agents that cause tuberculosis. 

By John K. Abimanyi

Posted  Wednesday, December 4  2013 at  00:00

In Summary

It usually feels like a common fever that just won’t go away until tests show that it is a bacterial infection. You take the prescribed drugs and get well. A few months down the round, the fever is back and the cycle continues, this time with a different set of drugs. According to scientists, there might not be any more drugs to beat the bacteria.

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Nuru, a woman in her late 20s, has had a battle with a urinary tract infection (UTI), which just will not go away.

“I first had a UTI about 10 years ago,” she says. “I had very frequent urination and after the tests, the doctors told me that I had a bacterial infection. I was put on medication that was injected through my veins. I thought it had ended.

“I never had any problem with urination again, or any noticeable symptoms. But about two years ago, while doing a routine check-up, a urine test revealed that I had a bacterial infection. They gave me more antibiotics and told me to return for more tests. Three weeks later, I returned, more tests were done, but the infection was still there.

The bacteria were not responding to the medication.

“I was given another type of drugs that doctors said was a stronger antibiotic. I was even told not to drink alcohol because the drugs were too strong. I took the drugs and three weeks later, I returned to the hospital. Again, the doctors said there was still an infection.

“This time, they gave me on injections, administered through the veins, that I received for three days. The drugs were indeed very strong. They made me dizzy and nauseated.

“By this time, I felt this medicine should work and I did not go for more tests, immediately after the treatment. I, however, tested again earlier this year, and the infection was still there. I have been given other medications, but it still has not gone,” she says.

The dilemma of bacterial resistance to antibiotics had dawned on her. And she is not alone. Other people, including men, women and children, report infections that manifest with high fevers and headaches, which persist and only subside after trying two or more antibiotics.

Doomsday
Bacterial resistance to drugs is now a common part of the Ugandan health cycle, beyond just cases of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis. Scientists confirm many a patient’s reports of recurring infections that do not respond to more than one type of antibiotics.

And now, a doomsday scenario, where antibiotics may no longer save us from bacteria, and its fatal effect, is a possibility that scientists are now treating seriously.

Why?
Because the misuse and abuse of antibiotic drugs is persistently lowering their ability to fight bacterial infections.

Drug misuse by patients is only one link in a long chain of causative actions undermining anti-bacterial medication’s efficacy. The rise of resistance to antibiotics has also been driven by; poor quality medical care, where misdiagnoses and wrong prescriptions are issued; pharmaceutical companies, which have either not done new research for stronger medication, or are producing quack medicines; and the evolution process of bacterium, in which a survival for the fittest evolutionary process, keeps the organisms mutating, to beat the medicine.

Bacteria are responsible for such diseases as typhoid, tuberculosis, strep throat, gonorrhoea and many others. The prospect of having no drug protection against these, is a scenario worthy of all foreboding.

“The scale of the problem is significant,” says Samuel Opio, the secretary-general, Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda.

“It is like a time bomb,” says Helen Byomire Ndagije, head of Drug Information Department at National Drug Authority.

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