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Antibiotics are losing effectiveness at irreversible rate, similar to global warming, warn experts

Antibiotics are rapidly losing their effectiveness, experts have warned Photo: PA Archive

Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at a rate that is both alarming and irreversible, similar to global warming, experts have warned.

Antibiotic resistance is a complex global public health issue, the Department Of Health have warned.

Mis-use of antibiotics is causing bacteria to become resistant - medics have warned.

Some antibiotics aren’t as effective as they used to be because the bacteria they are designed to tackle have become resistant to them.

These important medicines need to be used wisely to maximise the NHS’s ability to treat infections in the future.

The increase in antibiotic resistance is a major concern that needs action at a global level, experts are warning.

The Department of Health have published new guidance on the use of antibiotics in hospitals ahead of European Antibiotics Awareness Day on Sunday.

Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at a rate that is both alarming and irreversible - similar to global warming.

I urge patients and prescribers to think about the drugs they are requesting and dispensing.

Bacteria are adapting and finding ways to survive the effects of antibiotics, ultimately becoming resistant so they no longer work.

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

– The Department of Health's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies

Patients have been urged not to request antibiotics for coughs and colds due to an increasing resistance to treatments in the population.

A new leaflet has been designed so patients have a better understanding of common ailments, and the length of time that they last, so they are less likely to demand antibiotics when they visit the doctor.

A lot of people with coughs, colds and flu still visit the doctor expecting to be given antibiotics for their treatment and it can be difficult for the doctor to refuse.

This expectation puts a lot of pressure on the doctor to prescribe antibiotics which is often not necessary and causes increased antimicrobial resistance in the long run.

Bacteria will always adapt to try and survive the effects of the antibiotic and we have seen that the problem of resistance is growing.

GP patients who have had antibiotics in the last six months are twice as likely to have an infection with resistant bacteria.

This is why it is very important that we preserve the antibiotics that we have by not prescribing them where they are not necessary so that they are effective when we really do need them.

– Dr Cliodna McNulty, the HPA's lead on EAAD

What are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are important medicines used to treat infections caused by bacteria. Bacteria can adapt and find ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic.

They become ‘antibiotic resistant’, meaning that the antibiotic no longer works.

The more often we use an antibiotic, the more likely it is that bacteria will become resistant to it.

Some bacteria that cause infections in hospitals, such as MRSA, are resistant to several antibiotics.