World Antibiotic Awareness Week

Antibiotics are used to treat or prevent some types of bacterial infection. They work by killing bacteria or preventing them from reproducing and spreading. Antibiotics aren’t effective against viral infections, such as the common cold, flu, most coughs and sore throats.

Many mild bacterial infections can also be cleared by the body’s immune system without using antibiotics, so they aren’t routinely prescribed.

It’s important that antibiotics are prescribed and taken correctly to help prevent the progression of antibiotic resistance.

This is when a strain of bacteria no longer responds to treatment with one or more types of antibiotics.

When antibiotics are used

Antibiotics may be used to treat bacterial infections that:

-are unlikely to clear up without antibiotics

-could infect others unless treated

-could take too long to clear without treatment

-carry a risk of more serious complications

-people at a high risk of infection may also be given antibiotics as a precaution, known as antibiotic prophylaxis.

But there is also a problem with antibiotic medications.

Drugs that used to be standard treatments for bacterial infections are now less effective or don’t work at all.

When an antibiotic drug no longer has an effect on a certain strain of bacteria, those bacteria are said to be antibiotic resistant.

The overuse and misuse of antibiotics are key factors contributing to antibiotic resistance.

You, doctors and hospitals all play a role in ensuring proper use of the drugs and minimizing the development of antibiotic resistance.

What is antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotic resistance happens when microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi, and parasites) change when they are exposed to antimicrobial drugs (such as antibiotics, antifungals, antimalarials, and anthelmintics).

Microorganisms that develop antimicrobial resistance are sometimes referred to as “superbugs”.

As a result, the medicines become ineffective and infections persist in the body, increasing the risk of spread to others.

Why is antibiotic resistance a global concern?

New resistance mechanisms are emerging and spreading globally, threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases, resulting in prolonged illness, disability, and death.

Without effective antibiotics for prevention and treatment of infections, medical procedures such as organ transplantation, cancer chemotherapy, diabetes management and major surgery (for example, caesarean sections or hip replacements) become very high risk.

Antibiotic resistance increases the cost of health care with lengthier stays in hospitals and more intensive care required.

What can you do to prevent antibiotic resistance?

Take antibiotics only when prescribed by a certified health professional, but also don’t be timid about asking your doctor if you really need them.

If you take an antibiotic, always complete the full prescription, even if you feel better, because stopping treatment early promotes the growth of drug-resistant bacteria.

Key facts

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