Antibiotic resistance: myths and facts

How many times have you taken antibiotics when you didn’t need to?

Public awareness of antibiotic resistance is growing. For decades, we’ve been using antibiotics in a casual way. We often take them for smaller ailments, like sore throats. This has to stop, as it contributes to a worldwide healthcare risk.

What is antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria become more savvy. The overuse of antibiotics makes them less effective. This may mean they are no longer able to cure illness. MRSA is an example of a bacteria that’s already become immune to certain types of antibiotics.

Why is antibiotic resistance a worldwide concern?

We rely on antibiotics to treat common conditions. When antibiotics become less effective, it’s more difficult to treat these illnesses. These include pneumonia, tuberculosis and gonorrhoea. Medical research for alternative treatments are ongoing, but professionals are concerned. It remains uncertain whether a widespread alternative to antibiotics will be available. A United Nations report on Drug Resistance warns of the associated dangers. It predicts that drug-resistant diseases could kill 10 million people a year by 2050.

How to reduce the spread of antibiotic resistance

The World Health Organisation is the leading authority in healthcare, worldwide. It addresses the need to work collectively to contain antibiotic resistance. Here’s the advice for individuals:

  • Only use antibiotics when prescribed by a certified health professional.
  • Never demand antibiotics if your health worker says you don’t need them.
  • Always follow your health worker’s advice when using antibiotics.
  • Never share or use leftover antibiotics.
  • Prevent infections. You can do this by regularly washing hands and preparing food hygienically. Avoid close contact with sick people, practise safer sex and keep vaccinations up to date.
  • Prepare food hygienically. You can do this by following the WHO Five Keys to Safer Food. These are: keep clean, separate raw and cooked, cook thoroughly, keep food at safe temperatures, use safe water and raw materials. Choose foods that have been produced without the use of antibiotics.


Myths about antibiotics:

#1: People and animals become resistant to antibiotics

Lots of people think that people become resistant to antibiotics. It’s actually the bacteria itself that becomes resistant.

#2: You can share antibiotics if you’ve had the same condition

Sharing prescription medication of any kind is very dangerous. You should not share or take other people’s medication. All prescriptions must come from a doctor or prescriber. Two people can react very differently, even if they have the same condition or the same genes.

#3: Antibiotics work on all infections

Antibiotics are only effective in treating bacterial infections. It does not treat viruses.

#4: You can stop taking antibiotics when your symptoms subside

It’s important to take your full course of antibiotics in order to treat your illness. This applies to all prescribed medication.

#5: If I don’t use antibiotics properly, it’s only me that suffers

Misusing antibiotics affects everyone, as it increases the risk of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics resistance has become a worldwide health threat. We must all act responsibly to minimise the risk.

#6: If a certain antibiotic doesn’t work for me, another one will

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. Lots of us have been prescribed a different type of antibiotic after the first failed to work. However, many viruses are now becoming multidrug-resistant. This means that sometimes there may be no treatment at all.

#7: Antibiotics are an appropriate precautionary measure

This is a dangerous misconception. Using antibiotics when you don’t need to increases the risk of antibiotic resistance.

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