Page last updated at 11:15 GMT, Monday, 9 November 2009

GPs 'must cut use of antibiotics'

Antibiotic pills
GPs are being warned about use of antibiotics

GPs are once again being warned to cut back on the number of antibiotics they prescribe.

In recent years, the government, health protection experts and drug advisers have warned that overuse is increasing antibiotic resistance.

And now the European Centre of Disease Prevention and Control has warned if trends continue it will make it harder for hospitals to carry out operations.

The UK has seen rates of antibiotic resistance rise in recent years.

For example, rates of E. coli infections showing signs of resistance have trebled to 12% since the turn of the century.

Using antibiotics when they are not necessary will increase resistance to them and make it difficult to treat serious bacterial infections in the future
Department of Health spokeswoman

The ECDC is responding by warning that many common operations would be compromised if antibiotics were powerless to protect patients from life-threatening infections.

It wants to see governments across Europe run campaigns on the issue.

Dominique Monnet, a senior expert at the ECDC, told the Daily Telegraph: "If this wave of antibiotic resistance gets over us, we will not be able to do organ transplants, hip replacements, cancer chemotherapy, intensive care and neonatal care for premature babies.

"It is the whole span of modern medicine as we know it, that we will not be able to do if we lose antibiotics."

The ECDC intervention comes after several previous warnings about antibiotic use.

Minor illnesses

The government launched a major advertising campaign earlier this year telling people that antibiotics do not work on coughs or colds.

The Health Protection Agency has also warned about rising rates, while the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence issued guidance urging doctors not to prescribe them for minor illnesses.

A Department for Health spokeswoman agreed trends needed to change, but said the responsibility also lay with patients not to pressure GPs.

"Using antibiotics when they are not necessary will increase resistance to them and make it difficult to treat serious bacterial infections in the future.

"If you are suffering with cold symptoms or a sore throat you should rest, take plenty of fluids and speak to your pharmacist who will advise you on over-the-counter remedies that are available."

But Dr Jim Kennedy, of the Royal College of GPs, said the situation was improving.

"I think this is something both patients and doctors are very aware of.

"The conversations we have with patients are different these days. Most people are not demanding antibiotics like they used to."

Print Sponsor

Antibiotic resistance rise fears
10 Sep 08 |  Health
GPs told to cut antibiotics usage
22 Jul 08 |  Health
Antibiotics 'could help slow MS'
11 Dec 07 |  Health
Antibiotics 'unnecessarily used'
18 Oct 07 |  Health
Penicillin warning to doctors
14 Apr 04 |  Health

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific