Raising global awareness of antibiotic resistance

on 9th November 2018

Antibiotics play an incredibly important role in the treatment of illnesses around the globe. These drugs help fight off bacterial infections that our bodies are unable to conquer alone. Since their discovery, we have effectively managed to control and cure many health conditions that would have previously proven fatal.

Although there is some evidence to support the treatment of infections with early antibiotics in Ancient Egypt and other classical civilisations, modern day use of antibiotics began with the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928. Penicillin was widely introduced in the 1940s and this marked the dawn of the antibiotic age.

However, due to the adaptability of bacteria, their resistance to antibiotics is on the rise and this is causing a highly significant threat.

Overuse and misuse

Drug resistance has become a worldwide problem, and it is now believed that these drug resistant illnesses can strike anyone of any age, in any country.

Bacteria that have developed a resistance are not only harder to kill, but can also spread more efficiently, passing on their resistant traits as they multiply. This, in turn, results in diseases that are much harder to cure, which could lead to fatal pandemics.

This is especially worrying because much of this resistance is caused by overuse and misuse of medications, suggesting that the evolution of these drug resistant bacterium may well have been prevented with better knowledge. Of course, over prescription and inappropriate prescribing of these medicines is not the only cause for heightened levels of resistance – the use of antibiotics as livestock food additives for growth promotion has also been hailed as a leading cause.

A survey conducted by the World Health Organization found that misinformation is a main driving force behind the misuse of antibiotics.

When asked if the following statement was true or false – ‘It’s okay to buy the same antibiotics, or request these from a doctor, if you’re sick and they helped you get better when you had the same symptoms before’ – 43% of the those interviewed around the globe thought it was true.

Other statements from the report found that 70% of participants believed antibiotics could be used to cure sore throats, and 64% thought they could cure colds and flu.

Unfortunately, new antibiotics are becoming more difficult to discover and create. Not only does finding effective alternatives to old antibiotics take a lot of time and research, funds to support organisations that develop new antibiotics have also been cut or taken away entirely, and this has led to a deficit of scientists able to create these lifesaving medications.

World Antibiotic Awareness Week

As active participants in past campaigns for antibiotic awareness, the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy will be helping to increase understanding further during World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2018 (12-18 November).

Created to help people learn more about antibiotics and to prevent their misuse, this initiative also explains the facts behind antimicrobial resistance and why certain measures need to be taken to stop bacterium evolving further.

The World Health Organization has a vast amount of information and a number of excellent resources available to help educate staff and patients alike more about antibiotics, how they can help us, and what to do to help stop the spread of drug resistant strains.

Antibiotics save countless lives every year. In order to keep them effective against bacterial threats, we all need to work together to increase awareness.

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