Why Think Twice, and Seek Advice?
Antibiotics don’t work against common cold and flu viruses and are often unnecessary for some bacterial infections. Despite these facts, inappropriate antibiotic prescription remains common in Canada–estimated at over 30% of all prescriptions, and 50% of prescriptions for respiratory infections.
As drug-resistant infections increase, it is clear that Canadians need to ‘rethink’ and learn about antibiotics. We must consider the risks alongside the benefits of antibiotics. We must ask questions to understand where we can reduce needless antibiotic use.
What are antibiotics and antibiotic resistance?
Antibiotics are life-saving medications that we rely on to prevent and treat many infections caused by bacteria. But when bacteria are exposed to antibiotics, they adapt and develop characteristics that allow them to fend off or disable antibiotics. Greater exposure to antibiotics accelerates these changes. Bacteria that develop resistance are not killed and continue to multiply. Resistant bacteria are difficult, and sometimes impossible to treat.
What are the consequences of antibiotic resistance?
By 2050, if we continue using antibiotics as we are now, approximately 10 million people worldwide will die from resistant organisms each year--more than the number of deaths caused by cancer.
In Canada, a growing number of infections are not responding to antibiotics. Tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and urinary tract infections are becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat. In some provinces, experts estimate that tens of thousands of illnesses per year result from resistant bacteria.
Without effective antibiotics, other treatments will also become risky. Patients requiring surgery and chemotherapy will be poorly protected from the risks of life-threatening infections.
What you can do!
One of the best ways to combat antibiotic resistance is to ask questions—will an antibiotic help? Patients, talk to your prescriber. Practitioners, consult guidelines and experts in optimal prescribing.
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