This week has been World Antibiotic Awareness Week to be followed tomorrow (Friday 18 November) by European Antibiotic Awareness Day. So what all the urgent action?
Well it’s well documented that resistance by bacteria to the existing supply of antibiotics is growing. The World Health Organisation has estimated that by 2050 deaths caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria could number 10 million people a year.
This week NIHR CLAHRC Wessex hosted the Southampton Premiere of the award winning short film Catch, which tells the story of a family broken apart and facing difficult choices in a post antibiotic world.
The screening in front of medical staff, academics and the public left the audience in silence at the end. Added to this were the facts and figures presented by Professor Michael Moore, who leads our research on reducing antibiotic use in primary care.
Professor Moore outlined that the genes for resistance in bacteria are already entering the UK, and that people are carrying those genes within bacteria in their system and that the rate of resistance is going up.
One of the major factors in increased resistance by bacteria to antibiotics is unnecessary prescribing of them for illness at GP surgeries.
Part of the work that Professor Moore has been doing with nurse Liz Cross has been looking at bringing testing into GP surgeries for patients with chesty coughs. The finger prick test (called CRP) that takes around 2 minutes helps and doctors and nurses assess whether antibiotics will work for the patient. If they need them, the patient will get them, if not they won’t be prescribed or delayed.
The initial results of the research below, are encouraging. Around 80% fewer antibiotics are prescribed when patients are given the option of taking the CRP test.
During Professor Michael Moore’s talk after the film he suggested that for common illnesses like ear ache, sore throats and coughs in otherwise healthy people – they don’t need antibiotics and the pills will make little difference to the duration of the illness.
There is something we can all do to help prolong the effectiveness of antibiotics and that is one small but important step – become an antibiotic guardian.
Our research results are in and we have analysed them to measure the effectiveness of the GP testing project. We hope soon to be able to publish them and share more information.
In the meantime, Liz Cross (pictured above) continues to work with Professor Moore and at CLAHRC Wessex we look to expand the idea further.