I was privileged to attend a prestigious research lecture titled Critical Lessons in life and Medicine from Africa to the first world delivered by Prof Mervyn Mer from Wits University in South Africa and Professor Jeffrey Lipman from Australia at Wits University in Johannesburg South Africa. I sat in that auditorium surrounded by doctors, academics, medical practitioners, medical students, professors and masters degree holders while I was not even close to acquiring an undergraduate degree I had this feeling that I was in the wrong place. I was lost in some instances when the speakers swarm into the medical jargon or jokes I could not understand.
The central argument of the entire evening was how medical practitioners help bacteria become more resistance to antibiotics. In his talk on drug administration in the ICU department, Professor Jeffrey Lipman from Australia presented data of his forty years of research how under-dosing, treating viral disease with antibiotics and over-dosing has contributed to increase in bacteria resistance which was well evidenced. Furthermore, Professor Mervyn Mer from Wits University explained how poor drug administration and wrong medication has led to increase in cases of TB due to bacterial resistance. All these arguments are very valid and solid, however, throughout the lecture, I could not stop asking myself why can’t these medical practitioners tackle the menace at the root cause. I am not a medical practitioner or anywhere close to that but I think if they can try to fix these two issues below we may be moving closer to eradicating bacterial resistance to antibiotics.
As much a we are proposing and advocating for medical practitioners to give right medication and doses when administering drugs to patients, the method involved in development of the drugs themselves is flawed. Lets look at a simple summary of drug testing process as this is the most crucial part of drug development process. This process happens in different phases testing for absorption and metabolism, effects on organs and tissue, side effects, effectiveness, dosage, relationship with other drugs among others. These phases include:
20 – 100 Healthy volunteers take drug for about a month. The flaw here is that if we are putting an antibiotic into a healthy human being who does not need the antibiotic. How will the bacteria not become resistant to the antibiotic?
Several hundred Health- impaired patients take the drug with no dosage information. Meaning there are several tests that will be taken with different doses in order to find the correct dosage. To me this is exposing the bacteria to wrong amounts of the antibiotic and therefore increases the chances of the bacteria becoming resistant to the antibiotic. The scale escalates when the drug testing process gets to
In this phase hundreds and thousands of health impaired patients are subjected to the drug to determine the effectiveness of the drug in treatment of large populations. It is on this phase that control experiments are done . We think we are testing and making our we are now exposing the antibiotic to a large number of bacteria.
Lastly but not least is there a possibility of treating patients without necessarily using antibiotics?