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Drug Overuse: Antibiotic Ineffective Alarm

Antibiotics can save lives, but their overuse has made them ineffective.

And this, according to Dr Dena van den Bergh, director of quality leadership at Netcare, creates serious concerns about the treatment of bacterial infections in the future.

Van den Bergh was speaking during World Antibiotic Awareness Week, which ended yesterday. She warned that many people still viewed antibiotics as a cure for everything, which is NOT true.

“Antibiotics treat bacterial infections, so they should only be prescribed in the event of a suspected or proven bacterial infection.
Antibiotics Overuse 

“Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections. Even for bacterial infections they shouldn’t be taken unless there’s a serious medical reason why the body’s natural defences may require help,” she said.

Van den Bergh said overusing antibiotics continuously and without real need, eventually means some bacteria become resistant to medication and survive.

According to Van den Bergh, the increasing incidence of antibiotic resistant organisms has highlighted the importance of correct antibiotic prescribing, including “bug-drug matching”, the use of narrower spectrum antibiotics, appropriate duration of the course of treatment, and correct dosage.

“Patients also contribute to antibiotic resistance when they pressure doctors to prescribe antibiotics to treat non-bacterial infections and by not taking the antibiotics as prescribed,” she said.

Here are some facts about antibiotics:

What is an antibiotic?
Antibiotics are a group of medicine capable of destroying or lowering the growth of bacteria. One common antibiotic is penicillin, which was discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming.

Which types of illnesses are antibiotics effective in treating?
Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections like pneumonia, ear infections, strep throat, tuberculosis and urinary tract infections. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses like the common cold or influenza.

What is antibiotic resistance?
Bacteria are constantly evolving, producing different versions or strains. Just as humans can develop resistance to certain diseases, the evolution of bacteria strains lets them develop resistance to the antibiotics we rely on to fight them.

Why is there global concern about antibiotic resistance?
Common illnesses like pneumonia, TB and gonorrhoea are becoming more and more difficult to treat because antibiotics are not strong enough anymore.

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