Date
22 November 2017
Yuen Kwok-yung, chief of infectious diseases of the HKU department of microbiology, says the overuse of antibiotics has contributed to the prevalence of drug-resistant bacteria. Photo: HKEJ
Yuen Kwok-yung, chief of infectious diseases of the HKU department of microbiology, says the overuse of antibiotics has contributed to the prevalence of drug-resistant bacteria. Photo: HKEJ

Antibiotics overuse fueling stronger bacteria, expert says

Almost half of the people in Hong Kong have taken antibiotics in the past 12 months, according to a University of Hong Kong medical expert.

The overuse of antibiotics has contributed to the prevalence of drug-resistant bacteria, said Yuen Kwok-yung, chief of infectious diseases in the HKU department of microbiology.

The HKU Centre for Medical Ethics and Law and the School of Public Health held a seminar yesterday to discuss the seriousness of the drug resistance problem.

Yuen cited a survey by the Department of Health, which interviewed 1,200 people who have visited a private clinic in the past year.

More than 49 percent of the patients have been given an antibiotic in the past year compared with 34.6 percent in 2011.

The Department of Health also sampled 500 food products between March and August this year, in which 37 or 7 percent of the samples contained ESBL drug-resistant E coli, including 21 salad samples and 13 fruit cups.

Yuen said if human beings ingest more drug-resistant bacteria, the drug resistance could remain within the body and make antibiotics ineffective during illnesses, surgeries or even chemotherapy.

He reminded people that it is important to cook food thoroughly.

Yuen said private practitioners and clinics do not need to distribute any information regarding antibiotics, making it hard for the Department of Health to monitor the situation.

He suggested that parents can photograph their children’s medication and send it to the department for analysis, but the plan has yet to solidify.

For long-term elderly patients in public hospitals, doctors are not confident enough to not give antibiotics, Yuen said.

However, he said 90 percent of respiratory infections are not related to bacteria and do not require any sort of antibiotics.

Among blood samples obtained from public hospitals, 48 percent contained methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, more than four times the level in Britain, which is only 11 percent.

Taking antibiotics might even lead to chronic gastritis and obesity and might kill off healthy cells.

Dr. Hui Kim-ming from the University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital said the hospital continues to closely monitor the amount of antibiotics issued which is double-checked by pharmacists.

In 2012, 40 in every 100 in-patients received antibiotics compared with 38 per 100 now.

He said that both his hospital and Queen Mary Hospital have the same policy regarding antibiotics.

Also, Hui said Hong Kong’s public hospitals might be in a rush to cure their patients as there is a high demand for hospital beds, possibly issuing more antibiotics for this very reason.

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