Why is Mongolia overdosing on antibiotics?
Originally published OZY
Dr. Bill Frankland, a 106-year-old allergy expert, is one of the precious few still alive to remember Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin, as well as the warning that followed just eight years later. Franklin recalls, “Fleming said there would be a revolution, but doctors will overuse it, and because bacteria have to survive … they will become resistant to it.”
Fleming’s predictions came true, and the link between antimicrobial resistance and antibiotic use is well established. Countries around the world are still coming to grips with ways of rationing such drugs to limit the development of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. But it’s not just wealthy Western countries overusing the technology. In fact, according to a World Health Organization survey of 65 countries.
Not only that, but Mongolia’s usage was nearly twice as high as the runner-up, Iran, which had an average 38.78 people per 1,000 on antibiotic treatment per day. This doesn’t mean Mongolia has more antibiotics, in terms of volume — that would actually be Turkey, which consumed 1,195.69 metric tons of antibiotics in 2015 — but that those in Mongolia are the most likely to use antibiotics.
Dr. Moazzam Ali, an epidemiologist who’s researched the irrational use of drugs while based at the University of Tokyo, Japan — including the use of non-prescribed antibiotics in Mongolia — says that two of the most common uses of antibiotics in low- and middle-income developing countries is pneumonia and diarrhea. “It might be a simple flu, but they would treat it with antibiotics. This is especially the case when it comes to treating children,” he says. A 2010 study he undertook with other researchers in Mongolia found that 71 percent of children in the 503 households studied were given prescribed antibiotics, and a fifth of them had been given non-prescribed antibiotics as well. Just under half of the caregivers would give children antibiotics for a cough, fever or cold, and a survey showed they largely lacked basic knowledge about the proper use of the drugs.