The World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched a new campaign to raise awareness of antibiotic resistance. The experts warn that urgent action is needed if a “post-antibiotic era” is to be avoided.
The WHO campaign aims to challenge the most common misconceptions about antibiotic resistance, which happens when infection-causing bacteria mutates to become resistant to infection-fighting drugs. A new survey by the UN-agency revealed that:
- 76% of respondents think that it’s the human body which becomes resistant to antibiotics.
- 66% believe that individuals are not at risk of drug-resistant infection if they personally take their antibiotics as prescribed.
- 44% believe that antibiotic resistance is only a problem for people who take antibiotics regularly.
- 64% believe that antibiotics can be used to treat cold and flu.
- 57% believe that there is not much they can do to stop antibiotic resistance, and 64% believe that medical experts will solve the problem before it becomes too serious.
“The findings of this survey point to the urgent need to improve understanding around antibiotic resistance,” says Dr Keiji Fukuda, special representative of the WHO director-general for antimicrobial resistance.
The WHO campaign aims to improve awareness and understanding of the issue through effective communication and education. The campaign materials share various important facts about antibiotic resistance, including the following:
- Bacteria, not humans, become antibiotic resistant. These bacteria may then infect humans and are much harder to treat than non-resistant bacteria.
- Antibiotics have no impact at all on cold or flu viruses.
- Antibiotic resistance can affect anyone of any age in any country, because drug-resistant bacteria can spread to anyone through food, the environment or direct contact with infected humans or animals.
The campaign stresses that there are things everyone can do to help minimise antibiotic resistance. You should only use antibiotics when prescribed by a certified health professional and you should always take the full prescription, even if you feel better before finishing. You should never use leftover antibiotics and you should never share antibiotics with others. You can also help to prevent infections by regularly washing your hands, keeping your vaccinations up to date and avoiding contact with sick people.
“The rise of antibiotic resistance is a global health crisis, and governments now recognise it as one of the greatest challenges for public health today,” says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO director-general. “It is reaching dangerously high levels in all parts of the world. Antibiotic resistance is compromising our ability to treat infectious diseases and undermining many advances in medicine.”
“This campaign is just one of the ways we are working with governments, health authorities and other partners to reduce antibiotic resistance,” says Dr Fukuda. “One of the biggest health challenges of the 21st century will require global behaviour changes by individuals and society.”