Many final-year medical students in three East African universities know dangerously little on the use of antibiotics in hospital settings.
The condition, a new study suggests may be widespread in medical varsities across the region and prescribes better and hands-on training.
The study at Makerere University (MUK) Uganda, Mount Kenya University (MKU) Kenya and Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences, (CUHAS) Tanzania, found only about 37 per cent of sampled students had good general knowledge about antibiotics.
“We found final year students to have low knowledge about antimicrobial resistance and antibiotic use in clinical scenarios,” says the study published by senor lecturers from the three universities.
The study appearing in the journal Plos One, this month (May 2020) says this is of great concern and exposes huge training gaps of medical professional in the region.
“This has exposed gaps in practical training of students, who are not fully prepared to prescribe antibiotics in a hospital setting.”
A vast number of the ready-to-go-healers did not know when to start a patient on antibiotics, which antibiotics to use, what dose or when to switch from intravenous to oral regimens.
The study had involved 328 final year pharmacy and medical students at the three universities finding only about a third had good knowledge of antibiotics use.
Students from Makerere had much better knowledge than the others at 72 per cent compared to Mt Kenya at 40 per cent and 20 per cent at the Catholic varsities respectively.
While 270 of the students or about 82 percent knew when to start a patient on antibiotics, 34 per cent did not know how to select the appropriate antibiotic.
Almost a similar number of students did not know when to switch form an intravenous antibiotic to oral regimen while about 100 did not know the dose to give.
The three were chosen for study because Makerere is the oldest medical training university in East Africa, Mt Kenya is the first private chartered university to offer medicine while CUHAS is the biggest religious varsity offering health training in the region.
Quality of graduates
Consequently, the authors suggest the findings are likely to mirror the quality of medical graduates trained in universities across East Africa.
The team led by Dr Margret Lubwama of Makerere University recommends immediate remedial measures on the training of medical professional in the region especially on the growing threat of antibiotic resistance.
The researchers say they investigated training on antibiotic use and resistance because of their importance in public health.
One of the drivers for antimicrobial resistance they say is the indiscriminate and irrational use of antibiotics driven by lack of knowledge and poor attitude of the prescribers and dispensers.
Hence the poor practical skills, in this groups the authors say can eventually lead to inappropriate antibiotic prescription, one of the drivers for antimicrobial resistance.
But while many of the students were aware of irrational use of antibiotics most were likely to buy medicines without prescriptions.
“Interestingly, but not surprisingly, majority of the students, 61 percent reported that they bought antibiotics over the counter without a prescription from a doctor.”
By Gatonye Gathura
The study is available here: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0251301