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You can't cure everything with antibiotics

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You can't cure everything with antibiotics

Posted on Wednesday 16th November 2016

Cumbrian clinicians are urging patients to understand that antibiotics will not cure everything, and that they can actually be harmful if not used correctly. 

Medical professionals are stressing that illnesses including viral infections, most coughs and colds, sinusitis, ear infections and sore throats, all get better without antibiotics, as your body can usually fight them on its own.

Antibiotics are essential medicines used in both humans and animals to treat bacterial infections.

There are now very real concerns that antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at an increasing rate. Bacteria can adapt and find ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic, becoming ‘antibiotic resistant’, so that the essential medicine no longer works. 

The more you use an antibiotic, the more bacteria become resistant to it. 

Clinicians are advising that if we were to lose effective antibiotics, it would cause many routine treatments to become increasingly dangerous. Procedures from setting broken bones to basic operations, and even chemotherapy rely on the use of antibiotics that work.

Clive Graham, Consultant Medical Microbiologist at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Cumbria especially has been identified as having high prescribing rates for antibiotics. As there are only a few new antibiotics currently in development, it is very important that we use our existing antibiotics wisely and make sure these life-saving medicines continue to stay effective for us.”

An independent review of antimicrobial resistance, commissioned by the Government in 2014, estimated that a failure to address the problem of antibiotic resistance could result in an estimated 10 million deaths globally by 2050, and a cost of £66trillion ($100trillion) to the global economy.

Clive Graham said: “The term ‘antibiotic resistance’ is not familiar to the wider public, and so we are keen to spread the message as much as possible.

“A key challenge is to change public beliefs around when antibiotics should be prescribed. For example, antibiotics are often seen by patients as recognition that they have an illness, and so they request the medicine to satisfy their feeling of being unwell regardless of whether the medicine will help to treat the symptoms or not.”

Another concern is that antibiotic resistance can develop if the medicines are not taken as prescribed. Patients don’t always adhere to the indicated dosage of the medicine, or the correct duration of treatment, often to save the antibiotics for a later date or to share them with others. 

Clive Graham added: “We want to get the message across that everybody can help to slow down the development of antibiotic resistance by cutting the unnecessary use of antibiotics.”

Community pharmacists are well placed to help provide advice on over the counter medicines to treat symptoms and help with self-care.

This week (from 14 – 20 November) is World Antibiotic Awareness Week, and European Antibiotic Awareness Day is on 18 November. 

To help slow antibiotic resistance, everyone, from members of the public to the veterinary and medical communities and professional organisations, are invited to become Antibiotic Guardians.

You can find out more about becoming an Antibiotic Guardian, and choose a simple pledge to help tackle antibiotic resistance at www.antibioticguardian.com (it takes less than 3 minutes and it is free!). The campaign asks you to choose one simple pledge about how you’ll make better use of antibiotics and help save these vital medicines from becoming obsolete.

Posted on Wednesday 16th November 2016


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