European Antibiotics Awareness Day - November 18

Source: V.P. (Vytenis) Andriukaitis i, published on Monday, November 17 2014.

As a doctor, I often noticed that many of my patients have the misconception that antibiotics can treat any illness. Moreover, some people think that since antibiotics are commonly used, they are harmless.

On the occasion of the European Antibiotic Awareness Day, I would like to urge responsible use of antibiotics and remind that in some cases, taking antibiotics can do more harm than good.

For many years, antibiotics helped cure life-threatening infections, but in recent years, inappropriate use of antibiotics has led to the emergence and spread of resistant bacteria strains. In other words, every time you take antibiotics, sensitive bacteria are destroyed, and resistant bacteria remain and multiply.The emergence of resistant bacteria is a major public health problem: we are no longer able to treat people with certain severe infections - which can then spread in society, transferred to family members and other people. Only by preventing the emergence and spread of resistant bacteria we can ensure that future generations can also benefit from them.

I would also like to highlight the latest EU-wide data on antibiotic resistance in humans released by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control on the eve of European Antibiotic Awareness Day. The near doubling of resistance in a certain bacteria in three years is truly alarming, and illustrates the need to tackle the issue from all directions. Antimicrobial resistance is one the most pressing public health issues of our time and it will be at the top of my priority list during my five year mandate.

To spark innovation in this area, the European Commission will launch a €1 million challenge prize to address the issue of the unnecessary use of antibiotics in February 2015. This Horizon Prize for a Better Use of Antibiotics will be awarded for a rapid test that will allow healthcare providers to distinguish, at the point of care, between patients with upper respiratory tract infections that require antibiotics and those that can be treated safely without them. The test will need to be cheap, rapid, easy-to-use for healthcare providers and non- or minimally invasive for patients. By stopping many patients from taking antibiotics needlessly, it will prevent the side effects of such unnecessary treatment, eliminate the cost of prescribing the antibiotics and, most importantly, decrease the development of resistant bacteria.

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