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Spread awareness, stop resistance

Last updated: 25/11/2021

‘Spread awareness, stop resistance’ – that’s the campaign from the World Health Organisation (WHO) as part of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (18 – 24 November).

World Antimicrobial Awareness Week aims to educate people on the importance of only using antibiotics when absolutely necessary and recommended by a healthcare professional.

The overuse of antibiotics over a number of years is causing an increase in bacteria becoming resistant to the drugs, as Local GP and Clinical Lead for Prescribing at BNSSG CCG, Dr Shaba Nabi, explains:

“Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria no longer respond to treatment, causing serious complications, including bloodstream infections and hospitalisation. Taking antibiotics encourages bacteria to become resistant which means that antibiotics may not work when you really need them.

“This means we need to be really selective when using antibiotics, only using them when absolutely necessary.

“It’s a common misunderstanding that antibiotics help to treat common illnesses such as coughs, ear aches and sore throats. The reality is that the conditions will just get better over time, with antibiotics having little or no effect.”

New data published by the UK Health Security Agency, shows that antibiotic-resistant bloodstream infections fell across the UK in 2020 (from 65,583 in 2019, to 55,384) for the first time since 2016 but still remain at a higher level than 6 years ago. Importantly, the decline was largely driven by a reduction in recorded bloodstream infections overall, likely due to less social mixing, enhanced hand hygiene and changes to healthcare access and delivery.

More than 1,011 antibiotic items are currently prescribed by GP practices in BNSSG every day. Although this has reduced substantially over that past five years, from 1,438 a day in 2016, more reductions are still needed in order to fight antibiotic resistance.

Dr Shaba Nabi continues:

“It’s good news that the number of antibiotics being prescribed across BNSSG is going down, but as we come out of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important that we continue to use them wisely. 

“GP practices across BNSSG ensure antibiotics are only prescribed when needed and we therefore ask patients to take their healthcare professional's advice on when they do not need antibiotics.”

Locally, health leaders in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire are working to spread antimicrobial awareness in parents, so children can benefit from antibiotics when they may need them later in life.

Dr Stefania Vergnano, Infection Diseases Paediatric Consultant at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, said:

“Antibiotics are life-saving in sepsis and other severe bacterial infections, we need to preserve them for those.

“We are starting to see a number of small children including newborns with bacterial infection, for which common antibiotics are no longer effective. These children need complicated and prolonged courses and hospital stays, soon we will see children for which antibiotics are no longer effective.”

Find out more about World Antimicrobial Awareness Week.