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Superbug fears in antibiotic overuse

Superbug fears in antibiotic overuse

Rachel Browne

March 13, 2011

AUSTRALIANS spooked by the swine flu pandemic have driven a rise in the use of antibiotics in the past two years, undoing the work of health campaigns and prompting concerns about the rise of so-called superbugs.

Doctors dispense 22 million prescriptions each year, and Australians are estimated to be among the highest users of antibiotics in OECD countries.

NPS Medicinewise, a federally funded body promoting health education, says about 3 million of those prescriptions are wasted on viral infections.

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Antibiotic prescriptions dropped during an NPS awareness campaign about treating common colds which ran in 2006-08, but they rose again in 2009 after the outbreak of swine flu.

The NPS is planning to renew its campaign early next year and the World Health Organisation has put antibiotic resistance on the agenda for World Health Day next month.

One of the reasons world health experts believe antibiotic-resistant bugs are increasing is because of the misuse of antibiotics by doctors and patients.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare identified over-prescribing of antibiotics for upper respiratory tract infections as one of its key challenges in its report last year into Australia’s health.

Peter Collignon, professor of infectious diseases and microbiology at the Australian National University, said part of the problem was patients expecting a quick fix.

”People expect to get a drug to fix their problem. In fact, they probably just need to accept the fact that they have a virus and they just need to rest.”

Ronald McCoy, spokesman for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, said that although the use of antibiotics had dropped proportionally over the past 15 years, doctors still needed to be wary of prescribing unnecessarily.

”We have to get even smarter and stricter,” Dr McCoy said.

Andreas Heddini, the executive director of the Swedish group Action on Antibiotic Resistance, believes antibiotics could be put in the same class as narcotics to reduce unnecessary prescribing. He compared the global increase in antibiotic resistance with climate change, requiring a similar international strategy.

”It’s a global problem with no easy solutions,” Dr Heddini said.

The use of antibiotics as a growth promoter in agriculture was also contributing to growing resistance.



March 14, 2011 - Posted by | Artikel

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