The Health of Laos Depends on Responsible Use of Antimicrobial Medications

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To prevent resistance, medications should be taken for their full intended course.

Resistance to antimicrobial medicines like antibiotics has serious consequences for health, agriculture, and the environment, and Lao PDR is especially vulnerable, but health education and raising awareness can help mitigate the problem.

Antimicrobial resistance is the term for when microbes (including viruses and bacteria) evolve the ability to withstand medications meant to eliminate them.

This process of microbes becoming resistant to medication is responsible for the development of so-called  “super bugs” which spread more quickly and are much harder to kill than their predecessors.

Just this year, in South Asia, a study found that the number of strains of treatment-resistant typhoid fever “able to overpower macrolides and quinolones, two important types of antibiotics, climbed sharply and frequently spread to other countries.” 

At the same time, an Austrian man visiting Cambodia contracted a form of the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea that is very resistant to the antibiotic azithromycin–usually the first medication used to treat gonorrhea–as well as other antimicrobials like ceftriaxone, cefixime, cefotaxime, ciprofloxacin, and tetracycline. 

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Laos is now especially vulnerable to antimicrobial resistance. This is because knowledge of proper use of antimicrobials is limited in Laos, as is knowledge of the consequence of medication misuse.

Misuse and overuse of antimicrobial medications is a driving factor in the development of resistant “super bugs.” To prevent this, individuals should be sure that drugs are taken as recommended and that the correct medications are taken. For example, antibiotics should not be used to treat viruses, and antibiotics must be taken for the full recommended course of treatment. If a drug is meant to be taken for 7 days and is only taken for 5, the microbe may remain in the body while adapting to survive the drug. Proper sanitation, which prevents the spread of microbes in the first place, is another helpful step in preventing antimicrobial resistance.