Taking antibiotics unnecessarily for mild ailments is causing a growing problem of antibiotics resistance – where harmful bacteria can’t be killed off – according to a new Government campaign unveiled today.
The frequent use of antibiotics for ailments like coughs, earache and sore throats, that could get better by themselves, means that the life-saving drugs may no longer work when they’re really needed.
This includes conditions like meningitis, pneumonia and sepsis, and antibiotics resistance is already thought to be responsible for 5000 deaths a year in England.
Public Health England (PHE), who today launched a new ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ to warn people not to take antibiotics unless needed, estimate that in just 30 years it will kill more people than cancer and diabetes combined.
The PHE report reveals that antibiotics resistance is already a concern, with four in ten patients with an E.coli bloodstream infection in England unable to be treated with the most commonly used antibiotic in hospitals.
As antibiotic resistance grows, the options for treatment decrease, and experts are urging people to take their doctor’s advice.
“Without effective antibiotics, minor infections could become deadly and many medical advances could be at risk; surgery, chemotherapy and caesareans could become simply too dangerous,” said Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer.
“But reducing inappropriate use of antibiotics can help us stay ahead of superbugs. The public has a critical role to play and can help by taking collective action.”
People are being urged to always trust their doctor, nurse or pharmacist’s advice as to when they need antibiotics, and if they are prescribed, to take antibiotics as directed and never save them for later use or share them with others.
“Antibiotic resistance is not a distant threat, but is in fact one of the most dangerous global crises facing the modern world today,” said Professor Paul Cosford, Medical Director at PHE.
“Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your family at risk of developing infections which in turn cannot be easily treated with antibiotics.
“Without urgent action from all of us, common infections, minor injuries and routine operations will become much riskier.”
For many illness, rest, drinking plenty of fluids and taking paracetamol for pain relief are the best cures.
“As GPs we are often asked to prescribe antibiotics by patients who think that they will cure all their ills,” said Dr Chris Van Tulleken, TV and of infectious diseases doctor at University College London Hospitals.
“The reality is that antibiotics are not always needed so you shouldn’t expect to be prescribed them by your doctor or nurse.
“Always take their advice and remember that your pharmacist can recommend medicines to help with your symptoms or pain.”