Dr Diane Ashiru-Oredope
Pharmacist Lead for Antimicrobial Resistance and Lead for the UK Antibiotic Guardian Campaign
It is because many of these precious medicines have lost their effectiveness to treat the bacteria causing common infections such as pneumonia, skin and kidney infections, gonorrhoea, and tuberculosis.
People with antibiotic resistant infections suffer with symptoms for longer, require more complex treatment and are more likely to die with invasive severe infection caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria. It is estimated that 25,000 people already die every year in Europe because of infections resistant to antibiotics.
The development of new antibiotics will help in this fight but it is important that we take care of the antibiotics we have now. The loss of antibiotics will see us return to a 1930s style healthcare (pre-antibiotic era) where infections now considered trivial will once again be fatal. Infections related to pregnancy or superficial skin wounds, or illnesses such as pneumonia will once again become mass killers. Prior to antibiotics, 1 in 10 healthy young people died from pneumonia and skin infections; now, thanks to antibiotics this is only 1 in 100. Deaths from childbirth related sepsis was 3 in 100 prior to antibiotics and is now less than 3 in 100,000 births.
Don’t get me wrong, I know sometimes you will need to take antibiotics but for many infections we should try alternatives first. For example, antibiotics will not treat colds, flu and most coughs. As a working mum of two young children (six and three years old), I understand the stress and worry when our little ones are unwell especially in the winter season. However I have also seen the impact of not having effective antibiotics to treat an infection. Antibiotics will not work against most winter ailments and therefore I encourage you to visit your local pharmacist and ask how to bring down their temperature and reduce the pain from sore throats and headaches. I have over the years, as a mother and pharmacist learnt the importance of self-care for myself and my family.
Infections now considered trivial will once again be fatal.
It is essential that we preserve antibiotics for life-threatening infections such as sepsis and meningitis.
We cannot eradicate antibiotic resistance, but there are a number of actions that the public and all health and social care staff can take to help reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance.
What can you personally do about this? I would encourage you to learn more by visiting the Antibiotic Guardian website www.antibioticguardian.com where you can find out more about antibiotic resistance and what you can do to help save these vital medicines.