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Antibiotics should be preserved, warn doctors

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

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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.

Bacteria
Antibiotics are used to treat infections caused by bacteria Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Archive

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.

Antibiotics resistance growing, warn experts

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

Patients are being urged not to request antibiotics for coughs and colds Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Archive

It is important for antibiotics to be prescribed only when necessary so the drugs are effective when patients actually need them, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said.

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