Antibiotic Awareness

Antibiotics are important medicines for treating bacterial infections in both humans and animals.

Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at an increasing rate.

Antibiotic resistance is one of the most significant threats to patients’ safety in Europe.

It is driven by overusing antibiotics and prescribing them inappropriately.

To slow down the development of antibiotic resistance it is important to use antibiotics in the right way, to use the right drug, at the right dose, at the right time for the right duration.

Antibiotics should be taken as prescribed, never saved for later or shared with others.

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 we use antibiotics, the greater the chance that bacteria will become resistant to them so that they no longer work on our infections.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria don’t just affect you, they can spread to other people (and animals) in close contact with you and are very difficult to treat.

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

Why shouldn’t antibiotics be used to treat colds, most coughs and sore throats?

All colds and most coughs and sore throats are caused by viruses and generally these will get better on their own.

Antibiotics do not work against infections caused by viruses. Viral infections are also much more common than bacterial infections.

Why can’t other antibiotics be used to treat resistant bacteria?

They can, but they may not be as effective and may have more side effects. Eventually the bacteria will become resistant to them, and we may not always be able to find new antibiotics to replace them.

In recent years, fewer new antibiotics have been discovered.

How can antibiotic resistance be avoided?

By using antibiotics less often we can slow down the development of resistance.

It’s not possible to stop it completely but slowing it down stops resistance spreading and buys some time to develop new types of antibiotics.

What can I do about antibiotic resistance?

Don’t ask for antibiotics. Consider alternatives by asking your GP or pharmacist about over-the-counter remedies that can help in the first instance.

You should use antibiotics only when it’s appropriate to do so. Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed, never save them for future use and never share them with others.

So when will I be prescribed antibiotics?

Antibiotics should only be taken when prescribed by a health professional. Your doctor will only prescribe antibiotics when you need them, for example for a kidney infection or pneumonia.

Antibiotics may be lifesaving for infections such as meningitis. By not using them unnecessarily, they’re more likely to work when we do need them.

European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD)

Every year, European Antibiotic Awareness Day is held on November 18.

It’s a Europe-wide public health initiative that encourages responsible use of antibiotics.

This year’s public health campaign calls on everyone in Wales and the UK, the public and medical community to become Antibiotic Guardians by choosing one simple pledge about how they will make better use of these vital medicines.

Antibiotic Resistance

What is the problem?

Antibiotic resistance is an everyday problem in all hospitals across England and Europe.

The spread of resistant bacteria in hospitals is a major issue for patients’ safety.

  • Infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria increase levels of disease and death, as well as the length of time people stay in hospitals
  • Inappropriate use of antibiotics may increasingly cause patients to become colonised or infected with resistant bacteria
  • Few new antibiotics are being developed. As resistance in bacteria grows, it will become more difficult to treat infection, and this affects patient care

What is causing this problem?

Inappropriate use and prescribing of antibiotics is causing the development of resistance.

Inappropriate use includes:

  • not taking your antibiotics as prescribed
  • skipping doses of antibiotics
  • not taking antibiotics at regular intervals
  • saving some for later

Inappropriate prescribing includes:

  • unnecessary prescription of antibiotics
  • unsuitable use of broad-spectrum antibiotics
  • wrong selection of antibiotics and inappropriate duration or dose

How can the problem be addressed?

Make antibiotic prescribing a strategic priority in hospitals by:

  • targeting antibiotic therapy
  • implementing structured antimicrobial stewardship plans
  • reviewing local surveillance and assessing microbiological data

Make antibiotic prescribing a priority in primary care by:

  • developing an antibiotic stewardship tool for prescribers