700,000 people around the world die annually from drug resistant infections, the World Health Organisation has estimated. Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest global health challenges we are facing this century. The crisis can be slowed down, but it will take a major push from international healthcare organisations to delay the spread of antibiotic resistance. Countries such as Finland, Switzerland and Japan have launched creative public campaigns to raise awareness of the issue.
In Finland, an innovative game has been launched to educate the public on the misuse of antibiotics and vaccines. Switzerland have created a memory game which is promoted to healthcare professionals and patients in waiting rooms to help educate both parties on the emerging issue.
Here in the UK, a TV campaign has launched to urge patients to stop pressuring their GPs for antibiotics in order to prevent antibiotics from becoming in-effective. Keep Antibiotics Working, will warn people about the risks of taking antibiotics for minor illnesses and how this can cause serious medical complications if they develop more severe infections later in life. Approximately 5,000 people in England die each year due to antibiotic resistance and experts predict that this figure could exceed cancer fatalities within 30 years.
Bacteria Developing a Resistance to Antibiotics
Scientists from a Birmingham University have found, through a decade-long research project, that E.coli bacteria has developed a method to defend itself against two major antibiotics. Used to treat sepsis and local infections, the two forms of antibiotics are no longer an effective method to fight E.coli bacteria. E.coli, a major risk to hospital patients can causes sepsis if it is able to access the bloodstream but is also and more commonly associated with cases of food poisoning. The research comes as a stark reminder that excessive use of antibiotics can actually help bacteria to evolve and develop an antibacterial tolerance.
When Are Antibiotics Needed?
Unfortunately for GPs and medical professionals, viral infections have very similar symptoms as a bacterial infection, so trying to determine whether to prescribe antibiotics or not, can be difficult. A lab test is the only way to have a definitive answer, but this can take up valuable resources.
If you have a fever, chills or you’re shaking, you could have a bacterial infection, but these symptoms could also indicate that you have the flu. Your GP will need to assess your symptoms and whether it is likely that you have the flu or not, before prescribing antibiotics.
Most viral infections tend to last a while and can develop into a more severe illness featuring bacteria. If you have been suffering for a couple of weeks, you will likely be prescribed a dose of antibiotics.
The issue of antibiotic resistance is serious, but with public awareness and education we can also form a defence against this persistent health concern.