A lecture on antimicrobial resistance: DLSU professor’s public service recognized

Last June 27 at the Br. Andrew Gonzalez Multipurpose Hall, Dr. Esperanza Cabrera, Biology Professor and University Fellow, discussed her research on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) or drug resistance. Cabrera was previously awarded as one of the Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipinos last 2017 for her service and contribution to drug resistance research, which she continues to advocate for. 

Her presentation showed how antibiotics, medication used to slow down bacterial growth, have become ineffective in fighting against microorganisms over time. Known for their misuse and overuse, Cabrera went on to stress that such should not be overlooked, “Whether you’re in healthcare, in [another] industry, in the business area, [or] in research, this concerns you because you’re a human being.”

Serving the least, the lost, and the last

The celebration of Cabrera’s achievement was deemed appropriate by DLSU President Br. Raymundo Suplido FSC during his opening remarks, adding that it coincided with the commemoration of the tercentenary of St. John Baptist de La Salle, who also desired to serve the least, the lost, and the last. 

Metrobank Foundation President Aniceto Sobrepeña said in his opening speech that initiatives addressing major concerns and pressing issues deserve to be shared to a wider audience, which he stated were the reason for Metrobank’s giving the least, the lost, and the last “a way to be heard.”

Photo by Bea Francia

Looming threat

During the event, Sobrepeña noted, “Today’s discussion is made increasingly relevant and timely since [the public] faces drug resistance threats.” 

Information provided by the Center for Disease, Control and Prevention forecasted higher mortality due to drug-resistant infections by the year 2050, which is projected to surpass the statistics relating to deaths caused by cancer and diabetes.

Introducing the One Health approach, a multi-sectoral procedure established by the World Health Organization, World Organisation for Animal Health, and the Food and Agriculture Organization, Cabrera pressed that humans are not the only ones affected by AMR—animals can fall victim to resistant bacteria as well.

“That is what we mean by One Health approach. It [won’t] address humans only, but [it will] also address animal health and environmental health,” she explained. Expounding on the process of the aforementioned procedure, she praised how it goes beyond regional or national levels in advocating for “optimum health outcomes”. 

An evolving enemy

According to Cabrera, bacteria have already become drug-resistant in different parts of the world, and that it has even made its way to the consumer market, sometimes even in household products that contain ingredients which contribute to AMR. 

An example of such is triclosan. Found in products such as toothpaste and dishwashing soaps, it is often used to prevent and reduce bacterial contamination. Recently, however, its misuse instead contributed to AMR, to which Cabrera warned, “Before you buy your products, check if it has that agent triclosan.”

She also recognized the interconnection between people and animals, informing the audience that veterinarians would give antibiotics to livestock animals to treat their illnesses, which, through continuous medication, contribute even more to the creation of resistant pathogens—which are bacteria, viruses, or microorganisms that can produce diseases. 

In addition to AMR, she also discussed how the effectiveness of antibacterial washes has been a common misconception among consumers, noting, “We have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water.” She supported her statement with data provided by The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research which reflected the same results.

Roles to play

Although there are existing antiviral agents, medicines used to treat viral infections, Cabrera claimed that consumers need not buy them from pharmacies. 

She further advised that the treatment of influenza does “not necessarily [need] antibiotics,” but recommended to still get the opinion and assessment from a registered physician.

From ensuring that individuals wash their hands devoutly to the following of recommended prescriptions strictly, Cabrera stressed the importance of roles the public has to play to avoid bacteria becoming resistant to essential medicines, and in doing so, contributing to the alleviation of problems presented by AMR.

By Enrico Sebastian Salazar

By Eliza Santos

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