There are several thousand cases of antibiotic resistant bacteria in Singapore a year, say infectious disease experts, and the problem could get worse over time.

Bacteria can develop antimicrobial resistance over time, which can cause problems from patients who develop infections from these bacteria. Antimicrobial resistance refers to the ability of microbes such as bacteria and viruses to resist the effects of medicines that were previously able to kill them. These microbes develop resistance to antimicrobial medicines when they are overused or misused.

Experts are particularly worried about a group of bacteria that have grown resistant to a class of antibiotics called Carbapenems. Carbapenems are the last effective and safe options available for people who have developed infections.

Researchers have named these drug-resistant bacteria as the gram negative bacteria. They usually live in the digestive system and can cause urine, abdomen and pelvis infections.

Singapore is especially vulnerable to antimicrobial resistance given its status as a travel and medical hub, with travelers and patients from all over the world importing many forms of bacteria and disease into the small city state.

Last year, the United Nations recognized the severity of antimicrobial resistance and convened a general assembly last year to address this worldwide problem.

More worryingly, only 2 antibiotic treatments have been approved for consumer usage in the last 50 years. The latest antibiotic drug introduced to the medical market was approved some 30 years ago.

Singapore intends to combat the problem by educating the public on which illnesses should be treated with antibiotics and closely monitoring the use of the drugs. The Ministry of Health (MOH) also intends to improve hand hygiene and check patients who carry the bug by isolating them from other patients if needed.

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