Ninety years ago, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, the first antibiotic, and since then these medicines have been a cornerstone to modern healthcare to kill bacteria or prevent their growth.
However, the persistent overuse and misuse of antibiotics in human and animal health has encouraged the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which occurs when microbes, such as bacteria, become resistant to the drugs used to treat them (source: NHS).
Globally events are taking place this month (November) to raise awareness of how to use antibiotics in a responsible way that will help keep them effective for future generations. The World Health Organization’s World Antibiotic Awareness Week is taking place between 12th – 18th November, and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is holding European Antibiotic Awareness Day on 18th November. Meanwhile, Public Health England is asking people to become Antibiotic Guardians. The campaign asks individuals and organisations to take a simple pledge about how they will make better use of antibiotics and help prevent these vital medicines becoming obsolete.
Public Health England asks adults to register online that:
- For infections that our bodies are good at fighting off on their own, like coughs, colds, sore throats, and flu, I pledge to try treating the symptoms for five days rather than going to the GP.
- For infections that our bodies are good at fighting off on their own, like coughs colds sore throats and flu, I pledge to talk to my pharmacist about how to treat the symptoms first rather than going to the GP.
- It is vital we prevent antibiotics from getting into the environment. I pledge to always take any unused antibiotics to my pharmacy for safe disposal.
- If the NHS offers me a flu vaccination, I pledge to accept.
- If I’m prescribed antibiotics, I will take them exactly as prescribed and never share them with others.
Despite the risks of antibiotic resistance, research shows that 38% of people still expect an antibiotic from a doctor’s surgery, NHS walk-in centre or ‘GP out-of-hours’ service when they visited with a cough, flu or a throat, ear, sinus or chest infection in 2017 (source: PHE). To help prevent the spread of flu, HealthTrust Europe has already rolled out a company-wide flu vaccination scheme, offering employees free vaccines. As well as helping to keep staff healthy, the vaccination programme will prevent the spread of the illness to friends and family, and help decrease the burden of winter illnesses on the NHS.
And this summer our parent company in the States, Health Trust, made a $50,000 grant to leading healthcare company, LifePoint Health®, in recognition of its antimicrobial stewardship program and its commitment to appropriate antimicrobial usage. LifePoint will be using the grant to advance its capabilities in Days of Therapy reporting (the number of days a medicine was for which any amount of administered to a patient), and antimicrobial use and resistance reporting across facilities in 22 states.
If you would like to join HealthTrust Europe in supporting the Antibiotic Guardian campaign you can find further details on the Public Health England website.
People who are at risk of developing complications from flu (including the over 65s, pregnant women, and people with chronic illnesses) sometimes need antiviral medications to recover. As flu symptoms can be like those caused by a bacterial infection, high risk patients who have flu symptoms may need a lab test to confirm the diagnosis before antivirals are prescribed. Although lab tests are very reliable, they can take several days for results.
Due to the delay doctors may prescribe antibiotics just in case the test comes back negative. As stated above overuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance, and they are not effective at treating the flu virus.
HealthTrust Europe has point-of-care solutions that support the quick, correct prescribing of medication. The devices can provide test results in fewer than 13 minutes, right at the point of care, such as a GP surgery. For further details about the framework for Point of Care Testing which includes handheld, bench-top, connected and non-connected devices, you can download our pathology framework briefs.