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Antibiotic resistance – it’s happening now

Sophie Tomlinson
Sophie Tomlinson

 

INCREASING antibiotic resistance has been a hot topic of conversation for some years now. Despite being a natural phenomenon, there is cause for concern, as the number of resistant strains of bacteria emerging is increasing as are the number of antibiotics which are becoming less and less effective.

Resistant strains, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are emerging rapidly for a number of reasons including inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics and poor compliance with dosing regimens.

While many of us understand the issues surrounding antibiotic resistance, not all of us understand how we can help to tackle it.

Hopefully, some of you reading this will already be Antibiotic Guardians. For those of you who are not familiar, the concept, it was developed by a number of relevant (and concerned) associations who joined forces to invite each of us to take a pledge.

This pledge is selected by you and outlines how you will help to tackle the issue of antibiotic resistance. The aim is to create awareness and educate others to the importance of good compliance, ensuring appropriate prescribing guidelines are adhered to and learning when symptoms should be managed. I have been an Antibiotic Guardian for almost two years now and would like to share with you a situation I encountered last Saturday while working in a community pharmacy.

Practical steps
With it being that wonderful time of year when many of us come down with sniffles and sore throats, the pharmacy was busy with people asking for advice and purchasing cold and flu remedies. I was behind the counter when a gentleman approached me asking if I could recommend him a product to help with such symptoms. During our conversation he mentioned he had already taken a tablet that his mother had given him: Clarithromycin.

As an Antibiotic Guardian and aspiring healthcare professional, I felt it was my responsibility to discuss the importance of the correct use of antibiotics with him. We talked about why it is important not to take medicines prescribed for others and how there are different types of ‘bugs’ that can cause infections: bacteria (which can be treated with antibiotics) and viruses (which we have to let our immune systems fight off). He then explained to me that he hadn’t realised that viruses weren’t treatable with antibiotics and asked what he should do. After checking with the pharmacist, we agreed that although he had taken one tablet he should be advised not to take anymore. The gentleman and I then discussed how his symptoms could be managed, he then thanked me for my assistance and left.

This situation illustrates that there is still a lack of awareness regarding the correct handling of antibiotics and how all of us can play our part in educating others. There are many ways in which we can all achieve this, whether it’s setting up a public health campaign at university or becoming an Antibiotic Guardian. For more information on becoming an Antibiotic Guardian, pledges and other resources, please visit the Antibiotic Guardian website.

Sophie Tomlinson is a 2nd year pharmacy student at Liverpool John Moores University and BPSA publications officer

Follow Sophie @sophiet1992

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