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Majority of UAE residents think antibiotic resistance is health concern: Survey

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Three in four residents across the United Arab Emirates believe that antibiotic resistance is a major health concern, according to a new public survey conducted by YouGov.

The survey, commissioned by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the global, science-led healthcare company, quizzed more than 1,000 respondents from the UAE.

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It showed that despite the Ministry of Health and Prevention’s (MOHAP) efforts towards antibiotic awareness campaigns over the last three years, there is still a need for further education, with nine out of 10 people believing it important for doctors, pharmacists, and pharmaceutical companies to educate people about AMR.

More than 70 percent of those asked felt it was a “major health concern.”

According to the World Health Organization, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.

Antibiotic resistance can affect anyone, of any age, in any country. While it occurs naturally, misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is accelerating the process.

It means a growing number of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and salmonellosis – are becoming harder to treat as the antibiotics used to treat them become less effective.

The findings from the survey highlights a strong public trust in the local health system, signaling the need for continued awareness around this health topic as half of the respondents, when asked, were not familiar with the term “antimicrobial resistance”.

Dr. Najiba Abdulrazzaq, co-chair of the National Antimicrobial Resistance Committee at MOHAP, said: “Antimicrobial resistance is a pressing global challenge that compromises the effective prevention and treatment of bacterial infections, especially in the more vulnerable and at-risk patient groups.”

“Having an informed and responsible society is crucial in overcoming this problem. It is clear from these findings that the UAE public understands the importance of tackling AMR.”

Proper use, adherence of antibiotics

When it comes to the proper use and adherence of antibiotics, 86 percent of respondents believe that people should use antibiotics only when they are prescribed by a doctor, and four out of five respondents state that they always or usually complete the antibiotic course as prescribed by their doctor or as mentioned on a medicine leaflet.

However, in terms of storage and disposal of antibiotics, the survey shows that over half of the respondents (53 percent) keep leftover antibiotics at home. Furthermore, a third of the respondents reveals that they use the leftover antibiotics without consulting their physician.

Dr. Averyan Vasylyev, Medical Director at GSK in the Gulf, said: “The findings show that the vast majority recognize the wider health issue and the importance of advances in research and development in AMR.”

“The public believes that pharmaceutical companies have a key role to play in public health, with almost 9 in 10 of respondents stating that pharmaceutical companies should continue to invest in research to develop new antibiotics that are effective against resistant bacteria and vaccines that can prevent bacterial infections.”

The survey also finds that 71 percent of people listed healthcare professionals as their main source of information when it comes to AMR and antibiotics use, while 35 percent listed pharmaceutical companies’ websites, followed by media (TV, YouTube, news) as stated by almost 30 percent of respondents.

“The survey emphasizes the importance of physicians and pharmacists in increasing patient awareness about antibiotic resistance and helping patients understand the need to follow the instructions and prescriptions, but also dispose of their antibiotics suitably,” Abdulrazzaq also added.

“Healthcare professionals play a vital role in preventing antibiotic misuse. Collaboration between doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and the government is essential to ensure that we minimize public burden of AMR and its consequences on our ability to treat bacterial infections.”

Antibiotics are viewed as one of the greatest discoveries in human history, as they kill and prevent the growth of bacteria, helping clear infections in patients. However, their misuse is accelerating the process of AMR, wherein certain bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, resulting in bacterial infections that are difficult to treat.

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