Last week as the world reacted with alarm to the discovery of a new enzyme capable of making bacterial strains resistant to most antibiotics, Vietnamese experts said that they'd also found several "superbugs" here.
Doctors from the Hanoi-based National Hospital for Tropical Diseases have found a bacteria sample from a patient with pneumonia resistant to all 18 tested antibiotics, including new ones. This is the first case of its kind in Vietnam.
It was still unknown if the superbugs contained the troublesome enzymes, but the discovery presents more problems and raises more concerns in Vietnam than anywhere else.
Associate professor Truong Van Tuan of Ho Chi Minh City's University of Medicine and Pharmacy said one of the reasons for these developments was the abuse of antibiotics by both doctors and patients for a long time here.
Due to incompetence or commissions paid by pharmaceutical companies, doctors seem to be in the habit of prescribing lots of antibiotics, including strong ones, for patients who have never or rarely used antibiotics before.
Most Vietnamese people, meanwhile, usually buy medicines, including antibiotics, without prescriptions.
To some extent, this practice can't be entirely blamed on patients, considering how easy it is to buy prescription medicines and antibiotics in Vietnam. It's a common practice for doctors to sell drugs themselves and for pharmacists to informally prescribe medicines based on the customers' symptoms.
Meanwhile, poor people fall into the antibiotics resistance trap as they fail to follow doctors' prescriptions correctly.
Although they are asked to take antibiotics for at least five to seven days, the poor usually can't afford the medicines, as doctors often prescribe costly, new drugs. They buy the drugs for one or two days and resume when they have more money. This fosters the creation of antibiotics-resistant bacteria.
These problems have long been known in Vietnam, but authorities are yet to come up with effective solutions. If they don't do so soon, superbugs will be just the beginning of the consequences of bad medical practice.