The chief executive of Wirral Community NHS Foundation Trust writes for Globe.

SINCE their discovery, antibiotics have served as the cornerstone of modern medicine.

But the World Health Organisation is warning that antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats facing us today.

The persistent overuse and misuse of antibiotics in human and animal health has created a new generation of ‘superbugs’ that cannot be treated with existing medicines.

According to Public Health England there were an estimated 61,000 antibiotic resistant infections in England last year; a 9% rise from 2017.

Already, antibiotic resistant infections are estimated to cause 700,000 deaths each year globally, with that figure predicted to rise to 10 million by 2050 if no action is taken.

In order to reduce resistance, we need to avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics.

This week is World Antibiotic Awareness Week and we are all being asked to help try and stop further antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotics are essential to treat serious bacterial infections such as pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis.

They also help to ward off infections during chemotherapy, caesarean sections and other surgeries.

But while they are vital to treating life-threatening infections, they are frequently being used to treat less serious illnesses that can get better by themselves.

Taking antibiotics encourages harmful bacteria that live inside you to become resistant, meaning that antibiotics may not work when they are really needed.

When an infection such as a urinary tract infection (UTI) or skin infection doesn't respond to an antibiotic, it has the potential to cause serious complications, including bloodstream infections and hospitalisation.

So if you're feeling unwell, remember that taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your family at risk.

In fact, it puts everyone at risk.

Antibiotics aren't needed for:

  • Colds
  • Flu
  • Vomiting
  • Most coughs
  • Most ear infections
  • Most sore throats
  • Most diarrhoea
  • Most cystitis

Our bodies are good at fighting these off on their own.

So always take your doctor, nurse or pharmacist's advice on antibiotics.

There are very few new antibiotics in the development pipeline, which is why it is important we use our existing antibiotics wisely and make sure these life-saving medicines continue to stay effective for us, our children and grandchildren.

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