World Antimicrobial Awareness Week: the importance of using antibiotics responsibly
A study published in early 2022 found antimicrobial resistance (AMR) to be the direct cause of 1.27 million deaths worldwide in 2019, amid estimates that failure to tackle antimicrobial resistance could lead to 10 million dead every year in the world by 2050.
These sobering statistics only serve to illustrate why it is so important that we improve awareness and understanding of AMR through education.
In response to the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week campaign, Doctor Donald Grant, clinical manager at the online pharmacy The independent pharmacy shares his advice for the proper use of antibiotics.
What is Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)?
“Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi develop the ability to resist antimicrobial treatments. Therefore, antimicrobial drugs like antibiotics may become ineffective at treating infections, increasing the risk of serious illness and the spread of disease.
“Antibiotics are a type of antimicrobial substance developed to kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria and fight infections in the body. They are therefore widely used in the treatment of bacterial infections. However, the rise RAM rate make antibiotics increasingly ineffective, which is a serious global health problem.
is it possible to overuse antibiotics?
“Excessive use of antibiotics is one of the main causes of AMR, and it is estimated that up to 1 of 3 antibiotic treatments may be prescribed unnecessarily. Overuse can impact the effectiveness of antibiotics over time by allowing bacteria to develop resistance. This has led to the emergence of antibiotic resistant “superbugs” such as MRSA.
“Overuse of antibiotics can also lead to AMR: for example, using the wrong treatment (such as using antibiotics for a viral infection, which cannot be treated with ‘antibiotics) can promote the spread of antibiotic resistance properties in harmless bacteria – which can then be shared with other, more harmful bacteria, rendering the drug ineffective against them.
You can make sure you take antibiotics responsibly by:
- Use only antibiotics prescribed by a certified healthcare professional
- Never demand antibiotics if you’ve been told you don’t need them
- Follow the course of treatment exactly as prescribed by your doctor or pharmacist
- Never share or use leftover antibiotics
It is important that the use of antibiotics is guarded, saw again and approved by a healthcare professional, as they can ensure that the treatment you receive is appropriate and reduce the possibility of bacteria becoming resistant to the medicine if misused.
Is it safe to use expired antibiotics?
“With the rising cost of prescription drugs, some people may be tempted to turn to expired antibiotics sitting in the back of their medicine cabinet rather than paying for a new prescription or a new prescription. However, you should never use antibiotics past their individual expiration dates.
Main reasons to avoid expired antibiotics:
- Expired antibiotics are likely to have lost some of their potency, which means they will often be ineffective in killing the bacteria causing your infection. As such, you will often take longer to recover and your symptoms may even worsen.
- Using expired antibiotics can cause future prescribed courses of the same medicine to be less effective, which can allow stronger, antibiotic-resistant bacteria to grow, which can cause even more harm to you or your your child.
“Once the expiration date has passed, there is no guarantee that the antibiotic will still be effective – or even safe. You should never use expired medicinesand instead, consult your general practitioner or your pharmacist who can refill your prescription or prescribe a new cure.
“If you still have antibiotics that are past their expiry date, take them to your local pharmacist who will dispose of them safely.”
What future for antibiotics and AMR?
“As recently as 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that accelerating antimicrobial resistance would lead to a ‘post-antibiotic era’. That hasn’t happened yet, but AMR across the world — especially in countries without standard treatment guidelines — is reaching dangerously high levels, which could have serious consequences.
“That said, science is developing ways to reduce antimicrobial resistance. For example, researchers from imperial college london have found a way to weaken antibiotic-resistant bacteria by inhibiting a protein essential to creating their resistance abilities, which could prevent disease by making the bacteria vulnerable to treatment again.
“As ICL’s Dr. Chris Furniss says, “Since discovering new antibiotics is a challenge, it is crucial to develop ways to extend the lifespan of existing antimicrobials.” This at least gives us a glimmer of hope in the fight against antimicrobial resistance, but it is extremely important that we all do our part by using antibiotics responsibly.