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Please help to save our antibiotics

November 18th marks the start of World Antibiotic Awareness Week and European Antibiotic Awareness Day, a European-wide public health initiative that encourages the responsible use of antibiotics. Antibiotics are essential medicines that are used to treat infections, such as urinary tract infections or pneumonia, by killing bacteria.

The more we use antibiotics the greater chance that bacteria will become resistant to them so they no longer work on our infections.
Without effective antibiotics many routine treatments will become increasingly dangerous. Setting broken bones, basic operations, transplants, even chemotherapy all rely on access to antibiotics that work.

What is antibiotic resistance?
Since the 1940’s antibiotics have allowed us to fight infections and save millions of lives. But they are becoming increasingly ineffective against some infections. This is because the bacteria they are designed to destroy learn how to protect themselves from being killed by antibiotics. These resistant bugs can multiply and spread so that eventually the antibiotics don’t work at all.

How this happened
The more we use antibiotics, the quicker bacteria become resistant and we are running out of new antibiotics to try when the old ones stop working.
Two key reasons why antibiotics are losing their effectiveness;

  1. We take medicines that we don’t need. Antibiotics do not work for ALL colds, or for most coughs, sore throats or earache. Your body can usually fight these infections on its own.
  2. We make things worse when we don’t take antibiotics exactly as prescribed, for instance, missing doses.

A world without antibiotics
If we lose antibiotics it will be like going back to the 1930's where infections we now regard as trivial could be fatal

  • Chemotherapy will become increasingly dangerous
  • Our greatest medical advancements, such as organ transplantation, will be ruined
  • There could be more deaths caused by bacterial infections during complex surgery
  • We will run out of urgently needed antibiotics needed to treat life threatening infections such as sepsis

What can you do?
It is important that we use our existing antibiotics wisely and make sure that these lifesaving medicines continue to stay effective for our children and grandchildren.

  • Don’t ask your GP for antibiotics. For illnesses like coughs, cold or flu ask your pharmacist for advice on how to treat your symptoms.
  • Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed. Always take the full prescription, even if you feel better. Never save them for later and never share them with others.
  • Spread the word. Tell your family and friends about antibiotic resistance.
  • Prevent infections by regularly washing your hands, avoiding close contact with sick people and keeping your vaccinations up to date
  • Visit Become an antibiotic guardian and choose one simple pledge about how you’ll make better use of antibiotics to help save these vital medicines from becoming obsolete

To find out more about antibiotic resistance visit