The term antimicrobial includes antibiotic, antiprotozoal, antiviral and antifungal medicines. Antimicrobial resistance arises when the organisms that cause infection evolve ways to survive treatments.
Antibiotics prevent millions of deaths each year and remain the primary treatment for potentially fatal bacterial infections. However, inappropriate prescription rates and overuse of antibiotics lead to antibiotic resistance. This means that antibiotics become less effective, and therefore it is increasingly difficult, and in some cases even impossible, to treat patients for even common infectious diseases.
The World Health Organization stated in 2019, that the inappropriate use of antibiotics created a global health emergency that kills at least 700,000 people a year.1 The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) estimates that unless action is taken, the global burden of deaths from antibiotic resistance could escalate to 10 million lives each year by 2050, potentially making it deadlier than cancer.2
What can I do to prevent antibiotic resistance?
- The best way to prevent antibiotic resistance is to use antibiotics correctly.
- Don’t take an antibiotic for a viral infection. Although antibiotics kill bacteria, they are not effective against viruses. Antibiotics will not cure a viral infection.
- Don’t save an antibiotic for the next time you get sick. An antibiotic is meant for a particular infection at the time of the infection. Never take leftover medicine. Taking the wrong medicine can delay getting the appropriate treatment and may allow your condition to worsen.
- Take antibiotics only when needed. Healthcare professionals should only prescribe antibiotics that are needed and for as long as needed.
- Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed. Don’t skip doses. The level of antibiotics in your blood stream should be maintained to kill the bacteria. Complete the full course of treatment even if you are feeling better. If treatment stops too soon, and you become sick again, the remaining bacteria may become resistant to the antibiotic that you’ve taken.
- Never take an antibiotic prescribed for someone else. These may not be appropriate for your illness. It may delay your correct treatment, and may allow your condition to worsen.
- Target the antibiotic to the specific bacteria involved. Test to determine what bacteria caused the infection.
- New report calls for urgent action to avert antimicrobial resistance crisis [Internet]. World Health Organization. World Health Organization; 2019.
- Review on antimicrobial resistance. Tackling drug-resistant infections globally: Final report and recommendations [Internet]. UK Government and the Wellcome Trust; 2016.