Today is European Antibiotic Awareness Day.
With flu season upon us, it’s a good time to think about our antibiotics usage. Antibiotic resistance is a widespread problem across England and Europe, with 25,000 patients dying every year in the EU from infections caused by drug resistant bacteria, and related costs of over €1.5 billion in healthcare expenses and productivity losses.
What is causing this problem? The answer is inappropriate prescribing and use of antibiotics.
Inappropriate prescribing includes:
- unnecessary prescription of antibiotics
- unsuitable use of broad-spectrum antibiotics
- wrong selection of antibiotics and inappropriate duration or dose of antibiotics
Inappropriate use includes:
- not completing a course of antibiotics as prescribed
- skipping doses of antibiotics
- not taking antibiotics at regular intervals
- saving some for later
Despite this, a poll of 1,767 conducted by the Health Protection Agency found that 53% of adults who had recently visited their GP with a respiratory tract infection were expecting antibiotics. In addition, 97% said that the last time they asked their GP or nurse for an antibiotic they were prescribed one.
Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem in our hospitals, and it’s important to realise that coughs and colds are often caused by viruses and cannot be treated with antibiotics. GPs need stronger guidelines for antibiotics prescribing and patients need to be made aware of the dangers of not taking their antibiotics correctly. More importantly, we must all realise that the responsibility for preventing antibiotic resistance rests with each of us individually.
The NHS Antibiotics Awareness Campaign
Expert Report on Antibiotic Stewardship
I have to add that the worst culprits for antibiotic overuse are the farming and vetinary community where antibiotics are used in a scattergun approach to help animals grow faster and put on more muscle.
This pool of antibiotic resistance may be as large as the human one and has little or no regulation; vets should be considered and targeted for government attention as there are no restrictions placed on them when it comes to prescribing any antibiotic to a whole herd of animals; purely for financial and commercial reasons with no thought if resisance in mind.
I have not read any review that points this out and would love to see a response.
Of greater and more pressing concern, in my opinion, is the use of antibacterial soaps, deodorants, and toothpastes, many of which contain a broad spectrum antibacterial agent called Triclosan. Triclosan has been shown to select for multi-drug resistant bacteria, and not only are we using it on our hands and other surfaces every day, we are constantly washing it into our water supply. However, your point about the use of antibiotics in commercial farming is well taken, and I’m sure it is also a source of antibiotic contamination of our water supply.
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