The Silent Tsunami of Antibiotic Resistance Epidemic in Mexico

Mexico faces a silent epidemic with 95% of 50 million yearly antibiotic prescriptions deemed unnecessary, fueling a global health threat. Urgent intervention is crucial to combat antibiotic resistance and safeguard the progress made in the fight against infections.

The Silent Tsunami of Antibiotic Resistance Epidemic in Mexico
Global impact: Antibiotic misuse highlighted as Mexico battles a looming health crisis.

In Mexico, the fight against respiratory tract infections has inadvertently spawned a silent epidemic—antibiotic resistance. With a staggering 50 million prescriptions annually, a whopping 95 percent of these antibiotics are deemed unnecessary, leading to a dire scenario outlined by Samuel Ponce de León Rosales, coordinator of the University Program for Research on Epidemiological and Emerging Risks (PUIREE). In a recent press conference, he underscored the gravity of the situation, labeling it a “silent tsunami” that demands assertive intervention.

Ponce de León highlighted the global impact of Antibiotic Resistance (AMR), citing projections by the World Health Organization and the World Bank. By 2050, an estimated 50 million deaths worldwide could result from infections resistant to antibiotics, painting a grim picture of a future if immediate actions aren't taken.

In Mexico, the resistance profile within hospitals is a cause for serious concern, particularly with bacteria like Escherichia coli, a major contributor to global mortality. Over nearly a decade, the University has diligently measured and reported on this alarming trend.

The urgency for action was emphasized by Ponce de León, urging the State to acknowledge the severity of the problem and implement necessary interventions. Health professionals, both in clinical practice and outpatient settings, play a pivotal role, as does the general population, in curbing the indiscriminate use of antibiotics.

Ponce de León stressed the necessity of questioning physicians when prescribed antibiotics, especially in cases of acute respiratory infections or diarrhea with minimal occurrence, where their use may not be imperative.

The historical significance of antibiotics, which have played a pivotal role in reducing infection-related fatalities for over 80 years, is under threat. Without addressing the AMR concern, the progress made could be lost within decades.

Mauricio Rodríguez Álvarez, a professor at the Faculty of Medicine, shed light on the concerted efforts initiated in 2018 at UNAM with the formation of the PUCRA. The network aims to reduce the impact of antibiotic resistance through research collaboration, awareness, and the promotion of responsible antibiotic use.

The network has identified areas of improvement, including prescription patterns in offices adjacent to pharmacies. Shockingly, antibiotics were prescribed unnecessarily in seven out of 10 cases of pharyngitis, eight out of 10 cases of diarrhea, and virtually all urinary tract infections, indicating a need for better education and guidelines.

Guadalupe Miranda Novales, PUCRA Activities Coordinator, revealed a concerning spike in microbial resistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Antibiotic use surged, contributing to the selection and persistence of more resistant bacterial strains. The consequences are far-reaching, affecting not only the health sector but also agriculture and veterinary fields.

On a positive note, Yolanda López Vidal, a professor and head of the laboratory at the School of Medicine, emphasized preventive measures. Constant handwashing, avoiding contact during respiratory ailments, and adherence to immunization programs can reduce infections, rendering antibiotics unnecessary.

In conclusion, the battle against antibiotic resistance in Mexico is a critical one, demanding immediate and coordinated efforts from authorities, healthcare professionals, and the general population. The silent tsunami can only be quelled through education, responsible antibiotic use, and a united front against this growing global health threat.