Antibiotics are in danger of losing their effectiveness due to misuse and overuse, and are in many cases not even necessary.
Without urgent action, say experts, we are heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries will become untreatable.
These are just two messages from the World Health Organisation (WHO) which the Life Healthcare Group, a leading private hospital provider in South Africa, is highlighting to educate the public during World Antibiotic Awareness Week that takes place until November 19, 2017.
“The misuse of antibiotics over the past few decades has contributed to an alarming increase in bacterial resistance, which has since 2014 continuously been highlighted by the WHO as one of the biggest threats to public health today”, says Dr. Paul Soko Executive Head of Clinical Services and Quality at Life Healthcare Group.
Soko adds that antibiotic resistant infections often result in increased length of hospital stay, medical costs and mortality.
Antibiotic Awareness Week aims to increase awareness about antibiotic resistance by encouraging members of the general public, health workers and policy makers to follow best practice in the use of antibiotics to avoid the further emergence of antibiotic resistance.
The medical group strongly advises against the sharing of left-over antibiotics between family and friends or using left over antibiotics from a previous illness.
Antibiotics should only be used according to the advice provided by a healthcare professional.
Unused medicines should always be returned to any local pharmacy for safe destruction.
“It is important that the public is aware that globally we are running out of effective antibiotics. Antibiotics should only be used for bacterial infections that the body’s own immune response cannot fight, and only when a doctor prescribes them. Common colds and flus are for example caused by viruses, not bacteria, meaning that antibiotic therapy would be ineffective to treat these infections. Not only that, by using antibiotic treatment unnecessarily, other bacteria in the environment as well as the ‘healthy’ bacteria in the body gets the opportunity to develop resistance due to exposure, which can potentially cause antibiotic resistant infections later on,” says Soko.
“The need for antibiotic use can further be reduced by ensuring that all vaccinations are up to date. Vaccine preventable diseases often lead to secondary bacterial infections necessitating the use antibiotics, which could have been prevented if vaccines were up to date,” he added.