Antibiotic resistance 'big threat to health'

Antibiotic resistant bacteria Antibiotic resistance is growing

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Resistance to antibiotics is one of the greatest threats to modern health, experts say.

The warning from England's chief medical officer and the Health Protection Agency comes amid reports of growing problems with resistant strains of bugs such as E. coli and gonorrhoea.

They said many antibiotics were being used unnecessarily for mild infections, helping to create resistance.

And they urged patients to take more care with how they used medicines.

This is particularly important as there are very few new antibiotics in development.


The chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, said: "Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at a rate that is both alarming and irreversible - similar to global warming.

"I urge patients and prescribers to think about the drugs they are requesting and dispensing.

"Bacteria are adapting and finding ways to survive the effects of antibiotics, ultimately becoming resistant so they no longer work.

Prof Dame Sally Davies warns of the consequences of antibiotic resistance

"The more you use an antibiotic, the more bacteria become resistant to it."

To reinforce her message, Dame Sally has issued a list of "dos and don'ts".

These include:

  • Do remember antibiotics should be taken only when prescribed by a health professional.
  • Do complete the prescribed course even if you feel better, as not taking the full course encourages the emergence of resistance.
  • Don't share antibiotics with anyone else.
  • Do remember that antibiotics cannot help you recover from infections caused by viruses, such as colds or flu.

The HPA said the last point was one of the common misconceptions among the public.

Dr Cliodna McNulty from the HPA said: "We all seem to forget just how awful you can feel with a bad cold, let alone flu, and this maybe makes us think that we are more poorly than we really are and that we need antibiotics to get better.

"But this isn't the case and using your favourite over-the-counter medicines that can help to ease headaches, aching muscles and stop your nose running will make you feel a lot better."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    I wouldn't even bother the doctor for a mere cold, let alone ask for a medication that isn't effective against the virus that causes it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Before anyone complains about Drs over perscribing ABs two points need making, both showing that the issue is mainly with us, the public:

    1/. Stop demanding to be treated because you feel unwell if your Dr says you are actually not ill

    2/. If you are perscribed ABs for any reason FINISH the FULL course of treatment

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    84. linford

    Sorry but antibiotics do not work on viruses, so if you think you get better using them when you have a cold, it is a placebo effect.

    I cannot believe that your comment was an Editors' Pick either.


  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    It's at least 30 years since my then doctor said that he did not want to prescribe an antibiotic for a minor infection, because overprescribing can lead to the problems with resistance. If he knew then, how has this problem been allowed to develop? It's mostly because far too many patients turn up at their GPs' with unreasonable expectations and GPs hand them out to get rid of such patients asap.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Stopping putting antibiotics in animal feed requires us all as consumers to eat meat that is at least free-range, and preferably organic. Let's listen to HFW & Jamie. Its better for the animals and its better for us in so many different ways!


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