The Importance Of Becoming An Antibiotic Guardian

antibiotic guardian

Community pharmacies in England will run a mandatory public health campaign in September focusing on antimicrobial resistance. It also touches on not expecting antibiotics for everything and that patients must always complete the course. Being an Antibiotic Guardian can help prevent or minimise the real issues surrounding antibiotic resistance.

Fact is, we are seeing dangerous levels of antibiotic resistance all over the world which ultimately could threaten our ability to treat common infectious diseases. Some of these infections include pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning, gonorrhoea, and food-borne diseases.

If we continue down this path and without taking urgent action, we could find ourselves in a post-antibiotic era. This means we can no longer rely on antibiotics to cure common infections and minor injuries and they could be fatal once again.

What Exactly Are Antibiotics?

Put simply, antibiotics are certain types of medicines that are used to prevent and treat bacterial infections. Antibiotic resistance is a serious concern and occurs when bacteria change their behaviour in response to using these medicines.

Contrary to what some may believe, it is bacteria and not humans or animals that become antibiotic-resistant. These bacteria can infect both humans and animals while the infections they cause become more challenging to treat compared to non-resistant bacteria. Antibiotic resistance often results in higher medical costs, extended hospital stays and an increased mortality rate.

The Problem With Prescribing Antibiotics

Healthcare professionals globally must urgently change the way they prescribe antibiotics and educate people on how to use it. Without changing our behaviour, the risks associated with antibiotic resistance remain even when developing new medicines. In addition to behavioural changes, it must also include actions to reduce the spread of infections. This refers to educating the public about vaccination, hand washing, practising safer sex and good food hygiene.

Antibiotic resistance is even worse in areas where people can obtain it for themselves or animal use without a prescription. At the same time, countries without standard treatment guidelines often have problems with healthcare professionals over-prescribing. The situation is only exacerbated by the public over-using antibiotics leading to a higher risk of resistant strains. Everyone in healthcare should become an antibiotic guardian as ‘superbugs’ are a real threat on a global scale.

Antibiotic Guardian And Public Health Campaigns

Public Health England (PHE) is leading the public health campaign on Antibiotic Awareness and the associated activities across England. They are working in collaboration with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Department of Health and other professional organisations.

The Antibiotic Guardian campaign aims to “help protect antibiotics and improve knowledge about antibiotic resistance”. While new antibiotics are always being developed, none are expected to be effective against the most dangerous forms of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Considering the frequency and ease at which people travel across the world today, antibiotic resistance is not only a UK problem but a global concern. It requires a big effort from all counties and across a wide variety of industry sectors.

2018 Global Statistics On Antibiotic Resistance

The information below was taken from the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) new Global Antimicrobial Surveillance System (GLASS). The data reflects widespread antibiotic resistance among 500 000 people with suspected bacterial infections across 22 countries. According to the WHO, the most commonly reported antibioticresistant bacteria were:

  • Escherichia coli,
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Salmonella spp.

The percentage of patients globally with suspected bloodstream infections with resistant bacteria range between countries from 0-82%. More alarmingly, resistance to penicillin (the most-used medicine worldwide to treat pneumonia) is between 0 and 51%. There was also a resistance to ciprofloxacin of E. coli associated urinary tract infections.

Did you know?

Failing to address antibiotic resistance could cost the global economy £66 trillion in lost productivity. If that’s not bad enough, experts predict that in about 30 years, antibiotic resistance could kill more people globally than cancer and diabetes combined. In the EU alone, antibiotic resistance adds more than £1 billion to hospital treatment and societal costs.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

Resistance to antibiotics is spreading thick and fast due to the misuse and overuse of antibiotics. In addition, poor infection prevention, infection control and education also play a vital role. There are certain steps that healthcare professionals and individuals can take to reduce the impact and spreading of resistant strains.

Tips For Healthcare Professionals

In terms of the healthcare industry as a whole, they need to invest in research and development of new antibiotics, vaccines, diagnostics and other tools. Community pharmacies and other healthcare professionals can do the following:

  • Wash your hands, clean your instruments and environment to help prevent infections
  • Only prescribe and dispense antibiotics when absolutely necessary and according to current guidelines
  • Immediately report any antibiotic-resistant infections to surveillance teams
  • Educate patients about how to take antibiotics correctly, antibiotic resistance and the dangers of misuse
  • Tell patients about preventing infections by means of public health campaigns on vaccination, hand washing, safer sex, and covering nose and mouth when sneezing

What Can The Public Do?

While healthcare professionals should provide all the necessary information, individuals can also do research and help make a difference. Here are a few important tips any antibiotic guardian should follow:

  • Only use antibiotics prescribed by a certified health professional
  • Don’t demand antibiotics if your health worker says you don’t need them
  • Listen carefully to your health worker’s advice and follow their instruction when using antibiotics
  • Under no circumstance should you share or use leftover antibiotics
  • Prevent infections through regular hand washing, avoiding close contact with sick people, safe sex and keeping vaccinations up to date
  • Prepare food hygienically following the WHO Five Keys to Safer Food

Make A Pledge To Be An Antibiotic Guardian

As we’ve discovered, antibiotic resistance is certainly a serious issue and one of the biggest threats we face today. To slow the resistance, we need to stop using antibiotics unnecessarily as it doesn’t work for everything. Whether you are a healthcare professional, member of the public, scientist, teacher or student, you can become an Antibiotic Guardian. Make your pledge today on how you will use antibiotics better and help avoid these essential medicines become obsolete.

VirtualOutcomes provide various online training programmes to help pharmacy teams remain informed about most topics in healthcare. While there are several training modules available covering everything from diabetes, cancer screening and dental health, we will launch a new module on antibiotics in August. Please contact us if you need any additional information and join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.