Menu
  • image
Antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance

Antibiotics are important medicines for treating bacterial infections but are losing their effectiveness at an increasing rate. Antibiotic resistance is one of the most significant threats to patient safety in Europe and is driven by overusing antibiotics and prescribing them inappropriately.

 

It is important to use antibiotics in the right way, to use the right drug, at the right dose, at the right time and for the right duration. 

What are the facts? 

(ECDC 2015)  

 

Antibiotics, also known as antimicrobial drugs, are medicines that can kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria to cure infections in people, animals and sometimes plants.

Bacteria have antibiotic resistance when specific antibiotics have lost their ability to kill or stop the growth of the bacteria. Some bacteria are naturally resistant to certain antibiotics (intrinsic or inherent resistance).

Antibiotic resistance is a natural occurrence caused by mutations in bacteria's genes. However, excessive and inappropriate use of antibiotics accelerates the emergence and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

When you use antibiotics for the wrong reason: most colds and flu are caused by viruses against which antibiotics are NOT effective. In such cases, you won't improve your condition by taking antibiotics: antibiotics don't lower fever or symptoms like sneezing.


When you use antibiotics incorrectly: if you shorten the duration of treatment, lower the doses, don't comply with the right frequency (taking the drug once a day instead of 2 or 3 times a day as directed), you won't have enough drug in your body and the bacteria will survive and may become resistant. Always follow your doctor's advice on when and how to use antibiotics.

Multidrug-resistant bacteria can cause a wide range of infections: urinary tract infection, pneumonia, skin infection, diarrhoea, bloodstream infection. The location of the infection depends on the bacteria and the patient's condition.Patients in hospitals are at risk for infections unrelated to the reason for admission, including bloodstream and surgical site infections like MRSA.

Treating infections due to resistant bacteria is a challenge: antibiotics commonly used are no longer effective and doctors have to choose other antibiotics. This may delay getting the right treatment to patients and may result in complications, including death.

The situation is getting worse with the emergence of new bacterial strains resistant to several antibiotics at the same time (known as multidrug-resistant bacteria). Such bacteria may eventually become resistant to all existing antibiotics. Without antibiotics, we could return to the "pre-antibiotic era", when organ transplants, cancer chemotherapy, intensive care and other medical procedures would no longer be possible. Bacterial diseases would spread and could no longer be treated, causing death.

Before the discovery of antibiotics, thousands of people died from bacterial diseases, such as pneumonia or infection following surgery. Since antibiotics have been discovered and used, more and more bacteria, which were originally susceptible, have become resistant and developed numerous different means of fighting against antibiotics. Because resistance is increasing and few new antibiotics have been discovered and marketed in recent years, the problem of antibiotic resistance is now a major public health threat.

Keeping antibiotics effectives is everyone's responsibility. Responsible use of antibiotics can help stop resistant bacteria from developing and help keep antibiotics effective for the use of future generations.

 

Everyone can play an important role in decreasing antibiotic resistance:

 

Patients: 

  • follow your doctor's advice when taking antibiotics
  • when possible, prevent infection through appropriate vaccination
  • wash your hands and your children's hands regularly, for instance after sneezing or coughing before touching other things or people
  • always use antibiotics under medical prescription, not using "leftovers" or antibiotics obtained without a prescription
  • ask your pharmacist about how to dispose of the remaining medicines

Antimicrobial resistance is a growing public health problem in European hospitals and communities. Escherichia coli resistance to major antibiotics is increasing in almost all countries in Europe. E. coli causes urinary tract and more serious infections and is one of the most common bacteria causing infections.

 

To address this public health concern, some countries launched national programmes, including public awareness campaigns, several years ago and have observed a decrease in both consumption of antibiotics and in antibiotic resistance.

 

Want more facts? Visit the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control website.

 

What can you do to help now?

 

  • don't ask for antibiotics, treat cold and flu symptoms with pharmacist advice and over the counter medicines
  • take antibiotic exactly as prescribed, never save them for later, never share them with others
  • spread the word, tell your friends and family about antibiotic resistance


We're asking patients and staff to become Antibiotic Guardians by going to www.antibioticguardian.com and signing up to one of three pledges about how you'll make better use of antibiotics and help save this vital medicine from becoming obsolete.


If you feel your symptoms are getting a lot worse you should seek advice from your GP. You should also see your GP if you:

  • have a severe headache and are sick
  • develop an unusual rash or very cold skin
  • have slurred speech, confusion & feel very drowsy
  • have difficulty breathing, such as breathing quickly, or turning blue around the lips
  • experience chest pain
  • have difficulty swallowing or are drooling
  • cough up blood


In children with middle ear infection, always contact your GP if fluid is coming out of their ears or if they have a new deafness.

Last Updated: Wednesday, 02 November 2016 14:54

Search the site

nhs choices           Wirral Community NHS Trust is a UNICEF UK Baby Friendly accredited organisation                                   

Wirral Community NHS Trust is a UNICEF UK Baby Friendly accredited organisation.•

RSSFlickrFlickrTwitterYouTubeInstagram Linked In

Wirral Community NHS Trust is not responsible for the content of external sites.