Antibiotic resistance has become a major threat to human health worldwide, especially for serious infections, leaving limited choices for antimicrobials to be used. The World Health Organization (WHO) launched several strategies to control the spread of this resistance. However, in the Middle East the problem can become worse if these strategies are not applied due to the geographical location between developed and developing worlds, and the heavy misuse of antibiotics in the region. The current picture of antibiotic resistance in Saudi Arabia and some of the Middle Eastern countries represents high resistance rates among other regions to penicillin, erythromycin, fluoroquinolone, carbapenem and anti-tuberculosis drugs. Misuse of antibiotics is one of the major factors that contribute to the increase in antimicrobial resistance (AMR). This includes self-medication, incomplete dosage of the medication, missing doses, and re-use of excess antibiotics from previous prescription. Moreover, lack of adherence to infection control practice by healthcare professionals can contribute in spreading antibiotic resistance. An action plan has already been set by the WHO to limit antibiotic resistance. Application of this plan requires efforts of stakeholders from all regional countries to successfully stop the spread of AMR in the Middle East. Actions should include spreading public awareness of antibiotic resistance, as well as educational programs for healthcare professionals on infection prevention and control. National surveillances of antibiotic resistant bacteria that cause nosocomial infections are essential to identify outbreaks. Strict regulations regarding dispensing antibiotics should be imposed. Each country should take action to limit the spread of antibiotic resistance. If resistance is left uncontrolled, the region may face a time in which treatments of minor infections may become impossible.
Key words: Antimicrobial resistance, Saudi Arabia, Middle East, antibiotic misuse, penicillin, erythromycin, fluoroquinolone, carbapenem.
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