Indiscriminate and excessive use of antibiotics without prescription in Bangladesh requires strict regulation to prevent outbreak of drug-resistant diseases, Neely Kaydos-Daniels, Country Director, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said here on Wednesday.
She said misuse of antimicrobials in different parts of the world is responsible for emergence of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" that has been causing deaths to many people.
Besides, use of antibiotics is common in livestock and animal feed in Bangladesh that creates further threat to public health, she added.
Ms Daniels said this at a media briefing on the "Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Programmes and Partnerships with Bangladesh", hosted by the US Embassy in Dhaka at the American Centre in the city.
Referring to CDC's activities in the country, she said CDC has been working with Bangladesh for the last 50 years, and the permanent office in Dhaka has existed since 2003.
"Together with Bangladeshi scientists and officials, we have made discoveries, and advanced knowledge about health topics that benefit the whole world," she added.
Discussing common public health concerns in Bangladesh, she said: "Antibiotics are easy to purchase here without prescription while such drugs are also prescribed when it's not necessary."
Enforcement of laws is crucial to prevent overuse of antibiotics in this regard, she suggested.
Mentioning CDC's initiatives related to infection control at health facilities, the public health expert said that infection prevention and control at hospital is also very important as it is very preventable if required measures are taken.
"People who work at Bangladeshi hospitals and clinics are heroes as they are overwhelmed with the number of patients," she said, adding that to prevent infections at hospitals, there should be trained staff, proper hand-washing facilities, cleanliness, and well ventilation.
Terming Bangladeshi physicians very competent in treating diarrhoeal diseases, she said diarrhoea and cholera are seasonal diseases here which are treated with oral saline solutions (ORS).
The ORS was developed in Bangladesh and the country gives the recipe for free to the world that has been saving lives all across the globe, she noted.
Referring to the coronavirus pandemic, the CDC country director said the world has had a difficult two years affecting all in multiple ways by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The work done before the pandemic on Global Health Security by the CDC, the World Health Organization (WHO) and partner countries such as Bangladesh had a great impact on our ability to respond quickly to the threat posed by the COVID-19.
The CDC has supported Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) and the government of Bangladesh in their response to the pandemic from the beginning, she added.
For example, project sites for influenza were used to identify severely ill COVID patients; Field Epidemiology Training Programme (FETP) fellows and graduates provided contact tracing, wrote guidelines, and worked to protect national borders.
"But being in one pandemic does not mean that we are safe from another. Looking forward, we need to leverage the gains made in public health during the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to strengthen Bangladesh's capacity to prevent the spread of infectious diseases," she added.
She also mentioned that CDC has been working with its Bangladeshi counterparts in preventing diseases like encephalitis, Nipah Virus, free living (also known widely as the "brain-eating") amoeba known as Naegleria fowleri, etc.
In addition to scientific discovery and research, CDC supports the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) in Bangladesh as part of an international effort focused on preventing and mitigating health threats from infectious diseases.
She said the CDC developed FETP after its own applied epidemiology training programme, the Epidemic Intelligence Service, while CDC has provided technical assistance to the FETP-Bangladesh programme at IEDCR since 2013.
CDC has previously also worked with the Child Health Research Foundation (CHRF) to identify and monitor disease caused by the bacteria, Streptococcus pneumonia in children at Dhaka Shishu Hospital.
This work identified meningitis cases in children and provided data on how many children were affected by a disease that could be prevented through immunisation, Ms Daniels said.