Girls in Senior High Schools are abusing antibiotics in at an alarming rate, according to a study conducted by the Ghana Young Academy, in collaboration with the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens and other organizations.

The study comes as the United Nations marks World Antibiotic Awareness Week this week.

The abuse of antibiotics increases the spread of a phenomenon called antibiotic resistance, which the UN warns could surpass annual cancer fatalities.

Describing it as a “global health emergency,” the UN notes that by 2050, some five million people could die each year in Asia alone due to resistance to antibiotic medicines or antimicrobials.

Though Ghana may not be at a critical point, the Ghana Young Academy has observed that some Ghanaians may be exhibiting some ignorance and carelessness in the use of antibiotics and this could escalate into the crisis the UN has warned of.

The Ghana Young Academy study focused on the use of antibiotics for the management of vaginal infections by SHS girls.

Among its key findings, it is observed that 79.5 percent of respondents had used antibiotics within the past year. Of this figure, 34.76 percent have used antibiotics once within the year, and 27.74 percent have used antibiotics monthly.

“Monthly use of antibiotics is too frequent,” the Academy stated, warning that it also increases the chances of dangerous bacterias becoming resistant.

Over 60 percent of the users of antibiotics could not name the medication they had or were taking. Most of these persons were taking the medication because of colds, the flu or coughs.

This point is disturbing to the researchers, according to their statement accompanying the findings.

“The rampant use of antibiotics for treatment of common colds is alarming as most colds/flu/coughs are caused by viruses which are not susceptible to antibiotics. This constitutes misuse of antibiotics.”

Vaginal infections were the third most common condition treated behind diarrhoea.

Most of the girls surveyed said they used antibiotics on the recommendation of health workers, but a significant percentage (32.62%) took their recommendations from parents.

Only 51.83 percent of respondents were aware that failure to complete a dose of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance.

The study, which was also supported by KNUST’s Africa Hall covered 328 female students in 12 Senior High Schools in the Northern, Ashanti and Greater Accra regions, aged between 14 to 21 years.