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MP warns against antibiotic overuse

​​Dr Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes, says people shouldn't take antibiotics unnecessarily
Dr Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes, is a former GP who now chairs the Government’s Health Select Committee. She is backing South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group’s campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of antibiotics overuse. Here she talks about why misusing antibiotics today might mean that infections which were easily treated could once again kill.

Less than 100 years ago, before the advent of penicillin, infections were a major cause of early death. Millions of people now owe their lives to antibiotics.

But this could all change for future generations because bacteria are evolving. If they become resistant to antibiotics, these will no longer be effective for dangerous infections. The old diseases we thought we’d conquered will resurface to claim lives, with many straightforward operations or interventions becoming increasingly risky.

Antibiotic resistance stems from overuse. In other words, when people take them repeatedly, bacteria are more likely to emerge with resistance and to survive.

So if people are taking antibiotics unnecessarily and repeatedly for minor illnesses such as colds or for viral illnesses for which antibiotics do not help, then resistant strains of bacteria are more likely to emerge.

It is therefore essential that we use antibiotics properly, to slow down resistance and ensure that life-saving medicines remain effective for us now and in the future.

In April 2014, a World Health Organization report said, “This serious threat is no longer a prediction for the future – it is happening right now in every region of the world and has the potential to affect anyone, of any age, in any country. Antibiotic resistance is now a major threat to public health.”
At a local level, South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group, which is responsible for the majority of healthcare in the area, is raising awareness about the dangers of antibiotics resistance. It is doing some great work alongside GPs to help the public understand the significance of antibiotic resistance.

But, of course, overuse of antibiotics is a major concern across the health and care community, especially in hospitals, where it is a major issue for patients' safety.

Infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria increase levels of disease, as well as the length of time people stay in hospitals.

To avoid this, we must all do our bit. Keeping antibiotics effective is everybody’s responsibility – and it’s not all doom and gloom. The rate of development of resistant strains of bacteria can be slowed down.

One way to do this is to avoid using antibiotics for infections that are not serious. So if your GPs advises against antibiotics for a minor illness that helps to keep you, your family and your community protected from resistant bacterial infection.