About antibiotic resistance

About Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotics are important medicines used to treat infections caused by bacteria.

Bacteria can adapt and find ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic. They become 'antibiotic resistant', meaning that the antibiotic no longer works.

Antibiotic resistance is an everyday problem across Wales, Europe and the rest of the world. In Europe and the US 50,000 lives are lost each year to antibiotic-resistant infections. Worldwide, at least 700,000 people die each year due to drug resistance in bacterial infections.

The more we use antibiotics, the greater the chance that bacteria will become resistant to them so that they no longer work on our infections.

Inappropriate use and prescribing of antibiotics is causing the development of resistance.

Inappropriate use includes:

  • not taking your antibiotics as prescribed
  • skipping doses of antibiotics
  • not taking antibiotics at regular intervals
  • saving some for later

Inappropriate prescribing includes:

  • unnecessary prescription of antibiotics
  • unsuitable use of broad-spectrum antibiotics
  • wrong selection of antibiotics and inappropriate duration or dose

About 20% of antibiotic prescriptions which are given to patients are not necessary.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria don’t just affect you, they can spread to other people (and animals) in close contact with you and are very difficult to treat. The spread of resistant bacteria is a major issue for patients' safety.

Infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria increase levels of disease and death, as well as the length of time people stay in hospitals or the length of time it takes to treat infections. Some bacteria that cause infections in hospitals, such as MRSA, are resistant to several antibiotics.

Few new antibiotics are being developed. As resistance in bacteria grows, it will become more difficult to treat infection, and this affects patient care.

Why shouldn't antibiotics be used to treat colds, most coughs and sore throats?

All colds and most coughs and sore throats are caused by viruses and generally these will get better on their own.

Antibiotics do not work against infections caused by viruses. Viral infections are also much more common than bacterial infections.

Why can’t other antibiotics be used to treat resistant bacteria?

They can, but they may not be as effective and may have more side effects. Eventually the bacteria will become resistant to them, and we may not always be able to find new antibiotics to replace them.

In recent years, fewer new antibiotics have been discovered.

How can antibiotic resistance be avoided?

By using antibiotics less often we can slow down the development of resistance.

It’s not possible to stop it completely but slowing it down stops resistance spreading and buys some time to develop new types of antibiotics.

What will happen if we can’t slow down antibiotic resistance?

If we don’t slow down the spread of antibiotic resistance, by 2050 there will be 10 million deaths a year from resistant infections– 1 person every 3 seconds.

In the future, the risk of infection might be so high that chemotherapy or surgery might be too risky to undertake.

What can I do about antibiotic resistance?

Don’t ask for antibiotics. Consider alternatives by asking your GP or pharmacist about over-the-counter remedies that can help in the first instance.

You should use antibiotics only when it’s appropriate to do so. Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed, never save them for future use and never share them with others.

Watch the video below and then visit antibioticguardian.com to make a pledge about how you’ll make better use of antibiotics and help save this vital medicine from becoming obsolete.

So when will I be prescribed antibiotics?

Antibiotics should only be taken when prescribed by a health professional. Your doctor will only prescribe antibiotics when you need them, for example for a kidney infection or pneumonia.
 
Antibiotics may be lifesaving for infections such as meningitis. By not using them unnecessarily, they're more likely to work when we do need them.
 
See our Antibiotic Resistance: Resources For The Public webpage for more information.