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Antibiotic Awareness Week – “Antimicrobial Resistance: A Global Problem”

Our colleague Andreas Pylazeris, Medical Advisor, informs us about the Antibiotic Awareness and Awareness Week “Antimicrobial Resistance: Global Problem”.

18 to 24 November has been designated as World Antimicrobial Resistance Awareness Week by the World Health Organization. Its primary aim is to highlight the serious health threat posed by the global rise in antimicrobial resistance, raising awareness and encouraging the public to follow the instructions of health professionals regarding the appropriate use of antibiotics.

Antibiotics are molecules naturally produced that kill or inhibit the growth of microorganisms, including both bacteria and fungi. Antibiotics that kill bacteria are called ‘bactericidal’ while antibiotics that inhibit the growth of bacteria are called ‘bacteriostatic’. Antibiotics are grouped into different classes based on their chemical structure and mechanism of action.

Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections and cannot help you recover from infections caused by viruses such as the common cold or flu. Therefore, the correct diagnosis and decision about whether antibiotics are necessary can only be made by a medical doctor, and always with a medical prescription.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has now emerged as a global challenge for human wellbeing and one of the biggest global public health concerns. AMR has the potential to become a serious global health threat if left unchecked and could trigger another pandemic. The exposure of bacteria to subinhibitory concentrations of antibiotics appears to be one of the primary causes of AMR, which is mainly caused by the inappropriate use of antibiotics in clinical and agricultural settings.

Some bacteria are naturally resistant to certain antibiotics (intrinsic or inherent resistance). A more worrying problem is when some bacteria, that are normally susceptible to antibiotics, become resistant as a result of genetic changes (acquired resistance). All antibiotic-resistant bacteria survive in the presence of the antibiotic and continue to multiply causing longer illness or even death.

New data confirms that the number of patients affected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria is steadily increasing worldwide, with antimicrobial resistance posing a major threat to global public health. Recent estimates show that, each year, more than 670,000 infections occur in the EU/EEA due to bacteria resistant to antibiotics, and approximately 33,000 people die as a direct consequence of these infections. The overuse and misuse of antibiotics accelerates the emergence and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the environment.

According to data provided by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) for 2022, Cyprus has the highest rates of antimicrobial consumption in the EU/EEA, a fact that causes great concern to health authorities of our country.

Recommendations for prudent and responsible use of antibiotics:

Antibiotics should only be prescribed when genuinely needed and always with a doctor’s prescription.

– Antibiotics should not be used for the wrong reasons (e.g. in cases of common cold or flu) as this increases the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics.

– Antibiotics should not be misused (e.g. taking them for too long, not long enough, or missing doses). People should strictly follow the advice given by the doctor or pharmacist.

– Leftover antibiotics from previous treatments should not be taken or shared. People are advised to talk to their pharmacist about safely disposing leftover antibiotics.

Responsible use of antibiotics is everyone’s responsibility and can help stop resistant bacteria from developing, thus helping antibiotics preserve their effectiveness for future generations.