Antibiotic resistance is the ability of bacteria to resist the action of an antibiotic.
Antibiotic resistance severely limits the number of antibiotics available for the treatment of a number of diseases. A major cause is their use to treat minor illnesses that are often self-limiting.
November 18th 2020 is European Antibiotic Awareness Day and HSC is reminding islanders of the importance of when, and how, to take them and why their responsible use is so important.
Geraldine O’Riordan, Prescribing Advisor said: "Before the discovery of antibiotics, thousands of people died from bacterial diseases, such as pneumonia or infection following surgery. Since antibiotics have been discovered and used, more and more bacteria, which were originally susceptible, have become resistant. Because resistance is increasing and few new antibiotics have been discovered and marketed in recent years, antibiotic resistance is now a major public health threat."
Without antibiotics, there is a concern that we could return to the “pre-antibiotic era”, when organ transplants, cancer chemotherapy, intensive care and other medical procedures would no longer be possible. If we continue to use antibiotics for minor illnesses, we are facing the possibility of a future, only 70 years after the introduction of antibiotics, without effective drugs to treat bacterial infections.
Geraldine said: "Antibiotics aren't effective for common viral infections. They cannot help you recover from a cold or a ‘flu faster or prevent the spread to other people. For adults who are otherwise healthy, common viral infections and many milder bacterial infections will resolve in a few days without active treatment. These drugs can cause unpleasant side effects and increase resistance to the drugs in individuals and in the community.
"Reducing use is the most effective way of reducing resistance. Please do not pressurise your doctor into prescribing antibiotics if you are advised not to take them. Islanders with a cold who are otherwise fit and healthy are advised to self-care. Drink plenty of fluids, try to keep warm and rest. Community pharmacies can advise about over the counter products which can be very effective at relieving symptoms.
"Research has also shown that the number of people experiencing drug-resistant infections decreases when infection control measures, such as good hand hygiene, are followed."
Due to excellent collaborative working between primary and secondary care and the support of the public, there were nearly 15,000 fewer courses of antibiotics prescribed by GPs and specialists on the islands in 2019 than in 2012. The savings have remained available to fund the increasing numbers of drugs and treatments prescribed every year.