16 year-old Saathvik Vennelaganti lives in Hyderabad, India. He attended a workshop organised by Superheroes Against Superbugs in 2019. This article was originally published on Stop Superbugs website

For the longest time, I thought that all diseases could be cured through medical treatments or that at least their symptoms could be suppressed by medicines. I was convinced that hospitals have a solution for just about any medical condition. Also, what never crossed my mind is that just like humans and other living beings, microorganisms that cause various diseases also evolve over time. This sobering reality struck me only after I attended a workshop hosted by Superheroes Against Superbugs (SaS) at CCMB, Hyderabad, India.

At the workshop, I learnt that while not all diseases have treatments, the ones that can be treated are becoming incurable due to a natural phenomenon called Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). Antimicrobials like antibiotics are one of the most effective and inexpensive treatments for bacterial diseases.  But they are losing their power due to the emergence of antibiotic resistance in disease-causing bacteria. Due to human actions, these antibiotic-resistant infections are rising and spreading rapidly and becoming a huge cause of concern not just in India but globally.

At the SaS workshop, not only was I excited to learn about various types of bacteria, the different classes of antibiotics but I also learnt with great interest about antibiotic misuse and of course, about the problem of AMR and how it can be prevented. Attending this workshop presented to me a unique responsibility to educate my family, friends and community about the threats of AMR. I decided not to stop there and with the support of my teachers and the SaS team, I went on to educate my classmates along with my friends Jaswanth Pallapothu and Sanvrit Kumar Das.

Snapshots from the session on antibiotic resistance organised by Saathvik (top right) and his friends.

Today, my family and I no longer use leftover antibiotics and we always complete the full course. We go for regular health check-ups and purchase antibiotics only with a prescription from a certified professional. We no longer share our antibiotics nor do we recommend our prescription to anyone. The impact of this knowledge has been tremendous for all of us. Today, we know what to do and what not to do with regards to antibiotics.

We are in the middle of a global pandemic caused by the spread of a virus. There has never been a better time to improve our sanitation and hygiene practices to reduce the spread of infections in the first place. The most basic changes we make in these practices today can play a huge role in securing a healthy tomorrow. Not doing so could have ramifications far worse than the COVID pandemic. As a country of 1.4 billion people, let’s do our part and spread awareness on AMR and its many facets for the benefit of everyone in India and the world at large!