Antibiotic resistance is a serious global issue recognised by the medical profession. Antibiotics are powerful medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections, but mis-use of antibiotics means the bacteria that infect humans and animals are becoming antibiotic-resistant. Unless urgent action is taken, there is a risk that eventually antibiotics will not be effective at all.
- Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health today, and can affect anyone, of any age, in any country.
- Antibiotic resistance occurs naturally to some extent, however misuse of antibiotics in both animals and humans is accelerating the process.
- Serious infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and gonorrhoea are becoming harder to treat as antibiotics are becoming less effective.
- Antibiotic resistance results in longer hospital stays, increased medical costs and higher rates of mortality.
A global problem
Antibiotic resistant occurs when the bacteria change in response to the medication, and means that bacterial infections are becoming harder to treat. Even though new treatments are always being developed, antibiotic resistance will remain a major threat unless there is significant, global behaviour change. The spread of resistance is greatest in countries without standard treatment guidelines and areas where antibiotics can be obtained for human or animal use without prescription, but the problem is not confined to those countries – antibiotic resistance is a global issue that is growing.
Inappropriate use of antibiotics
The NHS state that antibiotics are no longer routinely used to treat infections including chest infections, ear infections, colds and sore throats. These conditions are caused by viruses, not bacteria, therefore antibiotics do nothing to speed up the healing process, and will not prevent others from contracting your virus. In fact, taking antibiotics for a viral infection can make things worse as the antibiotic destroys the beneficial bacteria in the gut, which are essential to a strong immune system.
Many patients however, still expect or even demand antibiotic treatment and unfortunately many GPs still give out unnecessary prescriptions. Adding to the problem, antibiotics have also been routinely given to animals and alongside complex dental procedures as a preventative ‘just in case’ the tooth became infected.
It is essential that we stop using antibiotics for situations that are not serious – if the world continues to use them in this way antibiotics will eventually become ineffective in life-threatening situations.
The World Health Organisation states:
“Without urgent action, we are heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill” (WHO, 2018)
What you can do:
- Only use antibiotics when essential and never demand antibiotics if your GP tells you they are not needed – ask if there is an alternative
- Only use antibiotics prescribed by a certified health professional.
- Never share or use leftover antibiotics – take them to your local pharmacy for safe disposal
- Prevent infections with good hygiene practices: hand washing, avoiding close contact with sick people, practising safe sex.
- Handle and prepare food hygienically: keep raw and cooked food separate, store at safe temperatures and avoid cross contamination by using clean utensils and suitable packaging.