Urgent action on three fronts is needed to remedy this situation: curbing the use of antibiotics in humans and animals, closely monitoring the emergence and spread of resistant bacteria, and developing new antibiotic therapiesToday, November 18, is European Antibiotic Awareness Day, an initiative designed to raise awareness among medical professionals and the public about the serious public health problem posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The global spread of antibiotic resistance over the last ten years—more than 70 years after the introduction of antibiotics to treat bacterial infectious diseases—reflects the adaptive response of bacteria in the face of the enormous selective pressure we have subjected them to. In short, resistance to antibiotics is the result of the massive use of antibiotics in both human and veterinary medicine as well as in the environment and in the community. Urgent action on three fronts is needed to remedy this situation: curbing the use of antibiotics in humans and animals, closely monitoring the emergence and spread of resistant bacteria, and developing new antibiotic therapies. All of these measures require the direct involvement of our politicians and scientists and considerable financial investment.
Antibiotics only cure infections caused by bacteria and are of NO USE in the treatment of infections caused by virusesOn the individual level, however, we all can (and should) do our bit to help prevent the emergence of resistant bacteria. If we are to preserve their ability to successfully treat bacterial infections we must understand that antibiotics are not invincible superheroes that can be abused whenever we want. Rather, they are very special drugs and if we want to preserve their efficacy we all have to do our part. If we want to safeguard their efficacy it is vitally important that we use antibiotics prudently and know when and how they should be used.
First we must understand that antibiotics only cure infections caused by bacteria and are of NO USE in the treatment of infections caused by viruses, such as influenza and the common cold. And we must take into account that we have an immune system capable of eliminating most minor bacterial infections without the help of antibiotics. Moreover, the indiscriminate and unjustified use of antibiotics is not only not beneficial, it actually increases the selective pressure on these microorganisms, making them drug resistant and thereby reducing the number of drugs available to fight them. Using antibiotics responsibly means only using them when they are prescribed by a doctor and always complying strictly with the prescription (the number of doses, days of treatment, dosage, and so on).
The irresponsible use of these drugs is one of the main causes of antibiotic resistance. To help keep antibiotics effective, we must all avoid self-medication and never keep left over antibiotics after we have completed a course of treatment. It is also important that antibiotics should never be disposed of in household waste because this leads to contamination of the environment, another factor in the emergence of resistant bacteria. Unused drugs should be returned to the pharmacy for proper disposal.
ISGlobal’s Antibiotic Resistance Initiative has created a comic strip called Superheroes vs. SuperbacteriaISGlobal’s Antibiotic Resistance Initiative has created a comic strip called Superheroes vs. Superbacteria to raise awareness that the prudent use of antibiotics is an issue that concerns everyone and that it only takes a small change in our behaviour to help prevent the emergence of new resistant bacteria. If we do nothing, we face a future in which bacterial infections that can be easily treated today, such as bacterial pneumonia, will become untreatable and deadly diseases.
Preventing the emergence of new resistant bacteria depends on each and every one of us!