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Antibiotic myths “hard to shift”

Antibiotic myths “hard to shift”

The overwhelming majority of the British public are unaware of how easily antibiotic resistant bacteria can spread from one person to another.

Posted: 19 November 2014

This lack of education around the use of antibiotics is believed to be an “important factor” in the rise of antibiotic resistance.

More than a third of people surveyed by Public Health England take antibiotics for a cough or runny nose despite both conditions not being treatable by antibiotics.

Community pharmacists and other practitioners are being urged to help reduce the amount of antibiotics prescribed to patients.

Chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, said GPs must prescribe “appropriately” and patients need to be aware “when antibiotics are really needed”.

In the survey of more than 1000 people, researchers also found 25% of people incorrectly believed antibiotics can treat fungal infections and more than one in ten believed it could treat allergic reactions.

Half of those polled said antibiotics could “weaken your immune system”, 17% of people thought antibiotics could be used as an anti inflammatory agent and less than 10% of people wrongly believed antibiotics could treat asthma, hay fever and headaches.

Dr Cliodna McNulty, head of PHE’s primary care unit, said: “The misconception that antibiotics are a cure-all for all ills is proving to be a very difficult myth to shift.

“Our survey results highlight the need for much greater awareness-raising as to what antibiotics are and what conditions they can be used for. We are asking everyone – members of the public and health professionals to make a pledge to help preserve our precious antibiotics. This could be seeking advice from the chemist on self-care of symptoms or for a GP to use a back-up prescription for patients with a high expectation of receiving antibiotics.”

Almost half of 15 to 24 year-olds admitted to taking unprescribed antibiotics from friends or family, with this figure less than one in those over the age of 25.

Dame Davies said: “We need to preserve the antibiotics we have, otherwise we could see the end of modern medicine as we know it.”

Carlisle Baker-Jackson, Reporter