The use of Antibiotics on Commercial  Ships

The careful use of antibiotics on commercial ships, as well as in any other setting, is vital to prevent the development of antibiotic resistance and maintain effective treatment options for bacterial infections.

Antibiotics are potent medications that can kill bacteria or inhibit their growth. However, misuse or overuse of antibiotics can lead to the emergence of resistant bacterial strains. On ships, where individuals from diverse backgrounds, regions, and cultures come together, the risk of spreading infections is heightened. Implementing proper infection control measures is crucial to prevent bacterial transmission and minimize the need for antibiotics.

Consider the following key aspects for the cautious use of antibiotics on ships:

1. Accurate diagnosis: Precise diagnosis of bacterial infections is paramount. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections, not viral ones. Therefore, distinguishing between the two is crucial to avoid unnecessary antibiotic use. On commercial ships, achieving this can be accomplished through thorough case histories, clinical examinations, and seeking external medical expertise.

2. Antibiotic stewardship: Implementing antibiotic stewardship programs on ships is essential. These programs aim to promote appropriate antibiotic use by educating crew members, particularly those in charge of medical care, about proper indications, dosages, and durations. Stewardship programs also facilitate monitoring of antibiotic use, tracking resistance patterns, and providing feedback to healthcare providers, thereby encouraging rational and evidence-based prescribing practices.

3. Infection prevention and control: Stringent infection prevention and control measures can significantly reduce infection transmission on ships. These measures include regular hand hygiene, proper sanitation practices, and maintaining clean and hygienic environments. By minimizing the occurrence and spread of infections, the need for antibiotics can be reduced.

4. Vaccinations: Ensuring that crew members are up to date with their vaccinations can greatly reduce the risk of specific infections. Vaccines can prevent bacterial illnesses such as pneumococcal infections and certain types of meningitis, thereby reducing the need for antibiotic treatment.

5. Isolation and containment: Prompt identification and isolation of individuals with contagious infections can prevent bacterial spread to others on the ship. This involves isolating affected individuals in designated areas and implementing appropriate infection control measures.

6. Communication and reporting: Maintaining open communication channels between healthcare providers and crew members is crucial. Reporting any suspected or confirmed cases of infection and collaborating to implement appropriate measures can help control infection spread and prevent unnecessary antibiotic use.

7. Adequate antibiotic stock on board: It is crucial to have an appropriate quantity and variety of antibiotics on board. Not every antibiotic covers all bacterial infections, and individual factors such as gender may influence antibiotic suitability. Having a well-stocked inventory ensures appropriate treatment options are available.

Recommended minimal content of Antibiotics in a medical chest

By adhering to these principles of careful antibiotic use on ships, it is possible to minimize the development of antibiotic resistance, protect the health of individuals on board, and preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics for future generations. If you would like to learn more about the recommendations we have developed in collaboration with our friend and esteemed specialist in this field, @PDDr. Irit Nachtigall, regarding antibiotic stock and use, please feel free to get in touch. 


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