Keep Antibiotics Working: New Health Campaign in England

Posted on by Paula Gallagher

antibioticsIt is no secret, that antibiotics are the most prescribed drug. Patients are quickly prescribed antibiotics for things like ear and sinus infections. But how are effective are they? It turns out that the overprescribing of antibiotics is actually decreasing their efficacy. A few years ago, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) noted that treating sinus infections with antibiotics (standard practice in the US) wouldn't help most cases and may actually do more harm. According to the IDSA, sinus infections are the fifth leading reason for antibiotic prescriptions, but as many as 98% of these infections are caused by viruses. Antibiotics do not and cannot treat viruses. Because there is no easy way to determine whether the infection is viral or bacterial, many doctors prescribe antibiotics... just in case. The problem with this is that since most infections aren’t bacterial, the antibiotics won't help and can actually increase antibiotic resistance. Now Public Health England (PHE) has launched the Keep Antibiotics Working campaign aimed at tackling growing resistance to the drugs. According to PHE, an estimated 5,000 people die every year in England because antibiotics no longer work for some infections. The government wants to see a further drop in the number of antibiotic prescriptions issued by doctors to tackle the threat from resistance. Antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria change in such a way that the medication used to treat them, in this case antibiotics, becomes ineffective. Antibiotics do not work on many common conditions, such as colds, flu, earache, sore throats and some chest infections. However, people should see their GP if they have prolonged symptoms and develop other issues such as a sickness, a very high temperature or shortness of breath. According to England’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, “Without effective antibiotics, minor infections could become deadly and many medical advances could be at risk – surgery, chemotherapy and Caesareans could become simply too dangerous. But reducing inappropriate use of antibiotics can help us stay ahead of superbugs." And although this campaign is starting in England, it is not isolated to them. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), each year in the United States at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. If you are on antibiotics, consider taking a probiotic. Antibiotics do not discriminate between good and bad bacteria – they tend to wipe out both. Taking a good, high dose probiotic will help restore beneficial microbes that are destroyed by antibiotics. The key is to take the probiotic and antibiotic several hours apart, so they aren't canceling each other out. For more information regarding Pathway probiotics, contact Village Green Apothecary. Photo from here, with thanks.