Dr Nick Tupper blog: Fighting against the ‘ticking time bomb’ of antibiotics

nick-antibioticsToday marks the start of World Antibiotic Awareness Week, which aims to alert people to the growing threat of bugs becoming resistant to antibiotics.

Doncaster doctors like me are joining medical colleagues across the world in warning that the widespread use of antibiotics could soon make them useless against fighting life-threatening infections unless action is taken now.

In short, antibiotics need to be handled with care if they are to maintain their effectiveness.

England’s chief medical officer calls it a “ticking time bomb”, with antibiotic resistance becoming a global problem. A worst case scenario could see the most basic operations – such as having an appendix removed, or a hip replacement – becoming deadly. It’s feared that by 2050, drug resistant infections could kill an extra 10 million people a year across the world if the current over-prescribing trend continues.

Doncaster uses more antibiotics than any other area in South Yorkshire. Unless they are prescribed and used appropriately, infections such as blood poisoning – which are often not regarded as serious – could become deadly.

There has been a 10 per cent increase in resistance to infections in Doncaster, which is directly linked to the number of antibiotics being prescribed locally.

Not every infection requires an antibiotic and they will not be prescribed unless they are a medically appropriate treatment.

They are not effective against viral infections like the common cold and flu. These illnesses will usually disappear within a week or so with the help of paracetamol, cold and flu remedies, decongestants, fluids and plenty of rest.

Taking antibiotics should only be a last resort for suspected bacterial infections. We need to use them sensibly so they continue fighting infections effectively. Bacteria are very cunning; they can find ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic and become resistant, which is one of the most significant threats to patients and modern medicine.

Setting broken bones, basic operations, even chemotherapy, all rely on access to antibiotics.

It’s important that we use antibiotics wisely as there have been few new ones developed over the past 20 years. It’s not possible to stop resistance completely, but careful use will buy some time to develop new ones.

Locally, we have launched an awareness-raising campaign, including producing a special self-care ‘prescription’ for GPs to give to patients, like the one I am holding in the photo. It covers illnesses such as middle ear infection, sore throat and sinusitis. Antibiotics are usually not appropriate for these conditions and the guide explains what you should do to treat them.

If you are prescribed antibiotics, please take them exactly as stated. Never save them for later and never share them with anyone else.”

You can also sign a pledge to become an Antibiotic Guardian, to help the bugs from winning the battle. Go to www.antibioticguardian.com to find out more.

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