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Antibiotic resistance 'one of the greatest threats to modern health'

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

Antibiotic resistance 'a complex global public health issue'

Antibiotic resistance is a complex global health issue, experts have warned Credit: David Jones/PA Wire

Mis-use of antibiotics is causing bacteria to become resistant - the Department Of Health have said.

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 'losing effectiveness at an increasing rate'

  • Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at an increasing rate, the Department of Health have warned.
  • There are very few new antibiotics in the development pipeline.
  • Existing antibiotics should be used wisely in order to stay effective, the Department of Health have said.
  • Many antibiotics are prescribed and used for mild infections when they don’t need to be.
  • Colds and most coughs, sinusitis, earache and sore throats often get better without antibiotics.

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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

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.

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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