NOVEMBER 13 – 19 is WORLD ANTIBIOTIC AWARENESS WEEK

Information provided by the World Health Organisation & HSE

Introduction

Antibiotics are medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of these antibacterial medicines. Bacteria, not humans or animals, are increasingly becoming antibiotic-resistant making certain types of bacterial infections harder to treat, and leading to higher medical costs, prolonged hospital stays, and increased death rates in all countries.

The world urgently needs to change the way it prescribes and uses antibiotics. Even if new medicines are developed, without behaviour change, antibiotic resistance will remain a major threat. Behaviour changes must also include actions to reduce the spread of infections through vaccination, hand washing, practising safer sex, and good food hygiene. The HSE has very good practical advice on how to mind yourself or your family when you’re sick, from what to look out for, what you can do, and when to seek help for many common symptoms – created by the HSE, GPs and Pharmacists at www.undertheweather.ie

Scope of the problem

Antibiotic resistance is rising to dangerously high levels in all parts of the world and threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases. A growing list of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning, gonorrhoea, and foodborne diseases – are becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat as antibiotics become less effective.

Antibiotic resistance is made worse in countries and places where antibiotics can be purchased (for animal or human use) without a prescription. Countries without standard antibiotic treatment and policy guidelines often over-prescribe antibiotics (by health workers and veterinarians) unneccessarily.

Without urgent action, we are heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.

Key facts

  • Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.
  • Antibiotic resistance can affect anyone, of any age, in any country.
  • Antibiotic resistance occurs naturally, but misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is accelerating the process.
  • A growing number of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea, and salmonellosis – are becoming harder to treat as the antibiotics used to treat them become less effective.
  • Antibiotic resistance leads to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased mortality.

Prevention and control

Individuals:

To prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, individuals can:

  • Only use antibiotics when prescribed by a certified health professional.
  • Never demand antibiotics if your health worker says you don’t need them.
  • Always follow your health worker’s advice when using antibiotics.
  • Never share or use leftover antibiotics.
  • Prevent infections by regularly washing hands, preparing food hygienically, avoiding close contact with sick people, practising safer sex, and keeping vaccinations up to date.
  • Prepare food hygienically, following the WHO Five Keys to Safer Food (keep clean, separate raw and cooked, cook thoroughly, keep food at safe temperatures, use safe water and raw materials) and choose foods that have been produced without the use of antibiotics for growth promotion or disease prevention in healthy animals.

Agriculture sector

To prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, the agriculture sector can:

  • Only give antibiotics to animals under veterinary supervision.
  • Not use antibiotics for growth promotion or to prevent diseases in healthy animals.
  • Vaccinate animals to reduce the need for antibiotics and use alternatives to antibiotics when available.
  • Promote and apply good practices at all steps of production and processing of foods from animal and plant sources.
  • Improve biosecurity on farms and prevent infections through improved hygiene and animal welfare.

Recent developments

While there are some new antibiotics in development, none of them are expected to be effective against the most dangerous forms of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Given the ease and frequency with which people now travel, antibiotic resistance is a global problem, requiring efforts from all nations and many sectors.

Impact

When infections can no longer be treated by first-line antibiotics, more expensive medicines must be used. A longer duration of illness and treatment, often in hospitals, increases health care costs as well as the economic burden on families and societies.

Antibiotic resistance is putting the achievements of modern medicine at risk. Organ transplantations, chemotherapy and surgeries such as caesarean sections become much more dangerous without effective antibiotics for the prevention and treatment of infections.

World Antibiotic Awareness Week

Held every November since 2015 with the theme “Antibiotics: Handle with care”, the global, multi-year campaign has increasing volume of activities during the week of the campaign.

Resources:

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/antibiotic-resistance/en/

http://www.who.int/campaigns/world-antibiotic-awareness-week/quiz/en/

www.undertheweather.ie