PHARMACISTS HAVE WARNED that overuse and misuse of antibiotics is creating a major public health threat which could mean we eventually run out of effective antibiotics to treat infections.
The head of the Irish Pharmacy Union said today that people who take antibiotics for colds, coughs, sore throats or sinus infections are putting their future health at risk by not realising that antibiotics are useless for treating the minor ailments.
“Lots of people don’t understand when it’s appropriate to take antibiotics and when it’s not,” said Rory O’Donnell, the president of the IPU.
“Antibiotics are a precious medicine designed only to be used for infections caused by bacteria,” he said. “Unfortunately, antibiotics are the only medicine in which widespread use decreases their effectiveness so taking them for the wrong reason or taking them incorrectly allows bacteria to develop resistance against antibiotics”.
His comments were backed up by the HSE which is running a campaign telling people that there’s no point in taking antibiotics for colds or flu.
One in four people in a HSE-commissioned survey believed that antibiotics could prevent colds from developing into more serious illnesses or help to speed up recovery.
Dr Fidelma Fitzpatrick, a consultant microbiolgist, warned that antibiotics have transformed modern medicine when it comes to treating bacterial infections, but that they were in danger of being taken for granted.
“Before antibiotics were available, common injuries such as cuts and scratches that became infected sometimes resulted in death or serious illness because there was no treatment available,” she said. “Thankfully this does not happen anymore as we have antibiotics available to treat these infections”.
She said that a “casual attitude to antibiotics” is damaging their effectiveness and warned that it could lead to a return to a pre-antibiotic era.