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Ireland's casual attitude to antibiotics leading to 'alarming rise' in superbugs

A new campaign is being launched today to encourage better practice in relation to antibiotics among both doctors and patients.

Image: woman taking pills via Shutterstock

LEADING CLINICIANS HAVE warned that the misuse of antibiotics in Ireland threatens to undermine the progress that has been made in medicine over recent years and makes patients less likely to respond to treatment.

Launching a campaign today, Dr Fidelma Fitzpatrick, Consultant Microbiologist and HSE/RCPI Clinical Lead said the casual attitude to antibiotics is damaging their effectiveness. She also said we are seeing an alarming global rise in ‘superbugs’, such as drug-resistant bacteria that cause pneumonia and meningitis, MRSA and E coli.

“Taking antibiotics when they aren’t needed means that they might not work when you really need them for a serious infection,” she said.

The evidence is very clear – overuse and misuse of antibiotics has allowed bacteria to develop resistance and they are becoming immune to the drugs we use to defend ourselves against them.

Fitzpatrick pointed out that before antibiotics were available, common injuries such as cuts and scratches that became infected could result in death or serious illness but that they should still be used only when approproiate.

Here’s what the HSE recommends:

  • Antibiotics don’t work for colds or flu – If you have a cold or flu – read the patient information leaflet for advice on how to help yourself get better and ask your doctor for advice if you are concerned.
  • Antibiotics should be taken exactly as prescribed – at the right time for the right duration.
  • Always finish an antibiotic course – even if you feel a lot better. This is to ensure that all the bacteria are killed completely and that no survivors are left that could multiply and develop resistance.

Common infections

President of the Irish College of General Prectitioners, Dr Seamus Cryan said that both GPs and patients need to be constantly reminded that antibiotics should only be used appropriately as most common infections are viral and treatable with rest and fluids.

As part of the current information campaign, information leaflets and posters are being circulated to all GPs and Pharmacies nationwide, explaining how antibiotics work and that they don’t help to fight colds and flu. It outlines how people can relieve the symptoms of colds and flu with rest, fluids and over-the-counter remedies. Radio advertising nationwide supports the campaign during the coming weeks and later on during the winter.

Read: Resistance crisis looms as antibiotics ‘handed out like cough sweets’>

Read: Infant antibiotic use may have implications for allergies, asthma and obesity – study>

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