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GHA urges careful use of antibiotics amid global concern over resistance to vital drugs

Archive image by Julien Behal/PA Wire

The GHA has urged people not to overuse antibiotics or take them without prescription, as it echoed warnings from the World Health Organisation about growing microbial resistance to these vital drugs.

The GHA issued the message on World Antibiotic Awareness Week, a global public health campaign coordinated by the WHO and the European Centre for Disease Control among others to increase awareness of antimicrobial resistance and the threat this poses to delivery of effective healthcare.

The overuse of antimicrobials and antibiotics has for some time now created a major complication in healthcare by contributing to the development of microbial resistance to these crucial, lifesaving medications.

“Antibiotics and other antimicrobials are vitally important, life-saving drugs and can be the best tool to treat certain infections if used correctly,” said consultant medical microbiologist Dr Nick Cortes.

“If antibiotics are taken when they are not required, this can increase the risk of microbes becoming resistant to these drugs, which means that they become ineffective when they are actually needed.”

“We all have a responsibility to safeguard antimicrobials.”

“Many common infections such as colds or flu are driven by viruses against which antibiotics have no effect; for the vast majority of these common infections self-care such as drinking plenty of fluids, rest and symptomatic relief with medications such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, as indicated, are effective.”

The GHA said misconceptions exist that antibiotics are a cure-all for many common ailments such as sore throats, coughs and colds.

Although there are some instances where antimicrobials are beneficial, this requires clinical assessment by a registered medical practitioner such as a GP or other relevant healthcare professional to determine that these are actually required, the GHA said.

It highlighted measures that people can take to try to reduce their chances of contracting certain conditions, such as the flu and the common cold.

These include to washing hands regularly, especially before handling food and eating; avoiding sharing items that have been in contact with another person's mouth; eating healthily to maintain a healthy immune system; avoiding close contact with someone who has a cold or flu; sneezing into a tissue and discarding it in the bin; and taking up offers of vaccines as protection against flu and COVID-19.

“The overuse of antimicrobial drugs has been classified by the WHO as a global crisis,” said Dr Helen Carter, the Director of Public Health.

“This is because the bacteria, viruses and other disease causing organisms are becoming resistant to these types of medication.”

“Please only take antibiotics if prescribed by a healthcare practitioner. It is also important to complete the entire course as advised.”

“Remember, keep healthy this winter and do not take antibiotics that have not been prescribed to you for your condition.”

“Please do not share prescription only medications such as antibiotics.”

“Let us all work together to safeguard antimicrobials and antibiotics so they remain effective for our, and future, generations.”

The GHA is promoting self-care and selected non-antibiotic interventions for its ‘Your Health Our Concern’ campaign.

It is emphasising the importance of good hydration in prevention of urinary tract infections and the use of symptom-scoring tools and rapid point-of-care tests for sore throats, coughs and colds, alongside vaccination campaigns for flu and COVID-19 amongst others.

“The aim being to more accurately identify who may benefit from antibiotics and who will not, and more importantly, prevent infections in the first place,” the GHA said.

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