We all know about bugs. We have virus scanners on our computers and mobile devices; we take action to protect our digital systems and frequently remove unwanted infections from our PCs. It seems that we have better knowledge of the bugs and viruses in our IT systems, and better awareness of online information that ‘goes viral’, than we do of the microbes that make us sick.
Of course, the microbes in our body are complex. Unlike computer viruses, bacteria can have positive and negative effects. They are the Jekyll and Hyde of our microbiotic ecosystem – sometimes they are our friends, other times a foe.
For example, in our attempt the take control, we have managed to get rid of a crucial bacteria Heliobacter pylori responsible for stomach ulcers. But is this a good thing? Recently we have found that they have a function preventing us from gaining too much weight. We have managed to get rid of infection but, in return, exposed ourselves to other vulnerabilities.
Without bacteria we cannot breathe or digest food. They are essential to our survival. We know that bacteria were the first living creatures on this planet and also that they would live on if humankind were to become extinct. ‘We live in a bacterial era, back then, today and until the end of the world,’ as Stephen Jay Gould put it.
Microbes make up about 1.25 kilos of our body weight, whether we like it or not. Striking the right balance is essential to our healthy coexistence. With a better understanding of the diversity of microorganisms, health professionals can learn to improve their use of antimicrobial medication and, above all, strengthen our internal defence mechanisms through vaccination.
That is why ESNO is developing the Nurses’ Guide to Anti-Microbial Resistance and Vaccination & Infection Control. The guide, which we aim to publish in April 2020, will address two of the biggest challenge of our time: antimicrobial resistance and the urgent need to address vaccine-preventable illnesses.
Nurses can play an important role in educating healthcare professionals, ancillary staff, patients and parents in the safe and sustainable use of antibiotics, the role of vaccinations in preventing microbial infections, and overall understanding of microbes.
The guide will cover the basics of microbial infections and the methods of treatment, and issues around antimicrobial resistance (AMR). It will provide information and support communication around vaccination and infection control in infection prevention.
Module two on medication treatment begins with an overview of vaccines, antibiotics and other antimicrobials and the different ways that they work. Vaccines are used to prevent infectious disease, and can be used against bacteria and viruses. Vaccines are also in development against fungi and parasites.
Armed with this information, nurses will be better equipped not only to fight disease but to promote a healthy harmony between patients and microbes.