To commemorate World Antibiotics Awareness Week, Pharma Dynamics in collaboration with medical and IT experts have developed an app, called BugWise, to support Antibiotic Stewardship programmes.

Available for both Android and Apple mobile devices, the BugWise app aims to reduce the emergence of resistant bacteria, caused by inappropriate use of antibiotics, by making relevant and updated information readily available to patients and clinicians.

Antibiotic resistance has increased worldwide, largely because of the overuse and misuse of antibiotic medications, but if left unchecked, experts fear it could claim up to 10 million lives per annum at a cumulative cost of USD100 trillion by 2050.

The threat of antibiotic resistant superbugs is becoming increasingly common in South Africa too and it is estimated that up to 80% of all antibiotic scripts in the country are predominantly for acute respiratory tract infections like sinusitis, bronchitis and pharyngitis. These infections are mostly of viral origin and shouldn’t be treated with an antibiotic. It is estimated that 60% of these antibiotic prescriptions are inappropriate.

Misuse of antibiotics has resulted in multidrug-resistant (MDR), extensively drug-resistant (XDR) and pan-drug-resistant (PDR) bacteria, which are being reported more often in South Africa and the threat of this potentially becoming our worst nightmare was already highlighted in a 2008 publication in the South African Medical Journal (SAMJ).

According to Antimicrobial Portfolio Manager at Pharma Dynamics, Annemarie Blackmore, the window of opportunity to control antibiotic resistance is rapidly closing, hence the urgency to launch interventions that will reduce excessive antibiotic prescribing.

“The BugWise app has been designed with the busy physician in mind and will help healthcare practitioners in private and public healthcare settings to optimise treatment while minimising antibiotic resistance. For example, doctors can input a patient’s information, such as diagnosis and chronic medications that they’re on, directly into the app and receive treatment recommendations specific to that individual. The app also allows doctors access to Antibiotic resistance surveillance data, which keeps them up to date on resistant strains that are prevalent in the area,” said Blackmore.

“Patients on the other hand will be able to research information on their diagnosis; along with the medication they have been prescribed. The app will inform them about antibiotics and the dangers associated with incorrect use, as well as some useful tips on how to prevent infections. They are also able to set reminders to take their medication at the correct times,” continued Blackmore.

Key features of the app include general alerts around updated drug monographs; access to the latest medical and scientific publications and articles related to antibiotic resistance; detailed microbe and medication information; drug interaction checker; antibiotic duplication checker;  dosing calculators; and importantly, surveillance data.

Patients can register immediately to access the app, while doctors can request a code via the app by providing their healthcare practice number.

“Since most people have access to smartphones these days, we see huge value in the use of alternative and sustainable education resources such as BugWise. Educating the public is an extremely important factor in tackling antibiotic resistance, as often patients put pressure on doctors to prescribe antibiotics and may not understand that often their illness is likely caused by a virus which cannot be treated with an antibiotic,” said Blackmore.

Although there are various apps that provide antibiotic information, Blackmore noted that the benefit of BugWise is in providing a single source where a doctor can find all the relevant information they may require on one platform, as well as an educational platform to assist with keeping patients informed.

Specialist in antibiotic resistance at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, Professor Guy Richards, who also formed part of Pharma Dynamics’ R&D team, says BugWise can help doctors to optimise patient outcomes while minimising antibiotic resistance at the click of a button.

“We’re very excited about the app, specifically because it can be customised to include statistics for specific locations to incorporate local sensitivity patterns,” said Professor Richards.

“BugWise makes this kind of information available to doctors in a much more efficient and accessible manner, which is ideal for busy doctors who have limited time,” concluded Professor Richards.

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