HEALTH: Are You Safe Using Antibiotics?

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The World Health Organization has listed antimicrobial resistance among the top 10 global public health threats. World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, which will be observed Nov. 18-24, is promoted to increase awareness of the global problem of antimicrobial resistance, and to encourage best practices to avoid the further emergence and spread of drug-resistant infections. Antibiotics are medicines that can be used to treat bacterial infection, prevent disease spread and reduce the complications. Some antibiotics that were once considered the best for treating bacterial infections are no longer effective or do not work at all.

When an antibiotic no longer affects a certain strain of bacteria, those bacteria are said to be antibiotic-resistant. Overuse and misuse of antibiotics is a key factor in antibiotic resistance. This is just one aspect of the wider problem of antimicrobial resistant.

Antibiotics are generally safe and effective when used as directed. Antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections. That means they are not effective against colds, flu and most sore throats. When you are suffering from a viral infection, an antibiotic will attack bacteria that is beneficial to your body. Misdirected treatment can lead to antibiotic-resistant properties in non-infectious bacteria. This can make it possible for harmful bacteria to take over the beneficial bacteria.

It can be tempting not to take an antibiotic until you feel better. To kill the disease-causing bacteria, you must complete the entire treatment. Incorrect use of an antibiotic can lead to the need to re-treat later. It may also encourage the growth of resistant bacteria.

Find out more about the correct use of antibiotics, and the role health care providers and patients play in antibiotic stewardship.

Connect with others talking about antibiotic use in the Infectious Diseases support group on Mayo Clinic Connect, an online patient community moderated by Mayo Clinic.

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