Medics warn on potentially fatal consequences of overusing antibiotics

Doctors, pharmacists, vets, and government departments are joining forces in an effort to combat the overuse of antibiotics amid the growing danger of simple surgery becoming a deadly event because of increasing drug resistance.

The concerted campaign to tackle the growing global problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria such as MRSA comes against a backdrop of the Irish being among the heaviest users of antibiotics in Europe. Figures from the Europe Centre for Disease Control and Prevention show that, of 33 countries, Ireland is the seventh heaviest consumer of antibiotics.

As testament to the seriousness of the problem, two government departments, health and agriculture, have set up a National Interdepartmental Antimicrobial Resistance Consultative Committee. Martin Blake, chief veterinary officer, and chief medical officer Tony Holohan said antimicrobial resistance was one of “the greatest potential threats to human and animal health, with serious consequences for public health, animal health and welfare, and food production”.

Speaking at an event yesterday to mark European Antibiotic Awareness Day 2014, hosted by the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, Dr Holohan said that Ireland is “in danger of entering a post-antibiotic era”, echoing a warning from the World Health Organisation earlier this year.

Dr Holohan said we were now in an era in which the developments of modern medicine were at risk, and in which dramatic falls in morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases were reversed.

“And simple infections once again become killer diseases; an era in which medical procedures such as neonatal care, hip and joint replacements, organ transplants and cancer therapies become impossibly dangerous because of the risks of associated infections which we cannot treat effectively,” Dr Holohan said.

The RCPI, the RCSI, the HSE, the Irish College of General Practitioners, and the Irish Pharmacy Union have also thrown their weight behind the campaign. IPU president Kathy Maher warned that antibiotics used to treat infections today would become ineffective or would stop working altogether in the future if overuse continued.

“Antibiotics are only effective for bacterial infections and do not work for the common cold, cough, sore throat or sinus infection, which are caused by viruses,” Ms Maher said.

This week, Health Minister Leo Varadkar launched {url=][/url], the public education and awareness side of the 2014 campaign. HSE figures in relation to superbug infection — specifically MRSA and C-difficile — show that since 2006, MRSA infection had fallen 62%, while C-diff infections had fallen 14% since 2008.

A recent European Commission report estimated that drug-resistant bacteria were responsible for about 25,000 human deaths per annum in the EU alone. />

Dos & don’ts -Don’t take antibiotics for colds and flu;

-Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed and finish the full course, even if you are feeling better;

-Do not save antibiotics for later use or share them with others;

-Don’t expect to be prescribed antibiotics for viral conditions. <br


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