Urgent appeal to combat antibiotics abuse

Top News | Sum Lok-kei 10 Nov 2017

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

And this has contributed to the "horrendous" prevalence of drug-resistant bacteria in the city, said Yuen Kwok- yung, department of microbiology's chief of infectious diseases.

Speaking at a news conference yesterday, Yuen said a phone survey conducted this year by the Department of Health shows 49 percent of Hongkongers took antibiotics in the past 12 months. It was only 34.6 percent in 2011.

"I think the situation is not ideal, I hope it can be reduced," Yuen said.

He also said smartphones could come in handy in helping track the use of antibiotics.

Yuen proposed that people photograph their prescriptions after an appointment and send photos to the Department of Health for calculation. The submissions would be confidential and anonymous, he added.

In the past, it has been difficult to obtain some prescription records as private practitioners have no obligation to share their records with the government.

Taking antibiotics might also lead to chronic gastritis and obesity, Yuen said.

The prevalence of drug-resistant bacteria in Hong Kong is higher than that of some European countries.

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

In Sweden, only 1 percent of blood samples collected contained MRSA, Yuen said.

Drug-resistant E.coli was found in 47 percent of the blood samples in Hong Kong hospitals, while in Britain it was only 2 percent.

At the same conference, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu- chee said the Department of Health was putting together a guideline for primary- care doctors on the use of antibiotics.

The department will also engage private doctors to learn of their usage, she said.

"Antimicrobial resistance is an important public health issue," Chan said. "That's why we have adopted the Hong Kong Strategy and Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance [2017-2022] in July this year."

The action plan stated that the government should enhance surveillance of antimicrobial resistance and monitor prescription rates of antibiotics.

Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki said Yuen's smartphone proposal "can't be done."

He said there are concerns with patient privacy and "besides, data collected would be inaccurate."

The government should, instead, set up a centralized system for private practitioners to declare antibiotics usage, Kwok said.

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