Antibiotic resistance is a very real and growing concern in the UK. New data from Public Health England (PHE) reveals antibiotic resistant bloodstream infections in England rose by 35 per cent from 2013 to 2017 – from 12,250 cases to 16,504.
The public health body has warned of the danger of misusing them, adding that over three million surgeries and cancer treatments may become life-threatening without the drugs, which our bodies are slowly becoming resistant to.
PHE says that without working antibiotics, infections related to surgery could double, putting people at risk of dangerous complications.
For example, cancer patients are much more vulnerable if antibiotics don’t work. Both cancer and chemotherapy reduce the ability of the immune system to fight infections, therefore antibiotics are critical to both prevent and treat infections in these patients. They are also essential for treating serious bacterial infections.
Unfortunately antibiotics are misused frequently for ailments like coughs, earache and sore throats, all of which can get better without treatment.
Taking antibiotics encourages harmful bacteria that live inside a person to become resistant, meaning antibiotics may not work when actually needed.
Professor Paul Cosford, PHE’s medical director, said: “It’s concerning that, in the not too distant future, we may see more cancer patients, mothers who’ve had caesareans and patients who’ve had other surgery facing life threatening situations if antibiotics fail to ward off infections.”
“We need to preserve antibiotics for when we really need them and we are calling on the public to join us in tackling antibiotic resistance by listening to your GP, pharmacist or nurse’s advice and only taking antibiotics when necessary,” Cosford continued.
“Taking antibiotics just in case may seem like a harmless act but it can have grave consequences for you and your family’s health in future.”
A new campaign called ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ hopes to alert the public to the risks of antibiotic resistance, urging them to always take their doctor, nurse or healthcare professional’s advice on antibiotics – rather than just taking them needlessly.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer, said without swift action, “we are at risk of putting medicine back in the dark ages – to an age where common procedures we take for granted could become too dangerous to perform and treatable conditions become life threatening”.
But GPs also face pressure from patients to prescribe antibiotics. Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “We need to get to a stage where antibiotics are not seen as a ‘catch all’ for every illness or a ‘just in case’ back-up option – and patients need to understand that if their doctor doesn’t prescribe antibiotics it’s because they genuinely believe they are not the most appropriate course of treatment.”