Monday 18 December 2017

One-in-three of us expect GP to give antibiotics

Dr Fidelma Fitzpatrick ,microbiologist Pix Ronan Lang/Feature File
Dr Fidelma Fitzpatrick ,microbiologist Pix Ronan Lang/Feature File

At least one in three of us expect an antibiotic prescription from our doctor, new research has found.

Dr Fidelma Fitzpatrick, a consultant microbiologist at Beaumont Hospital pointed out that if a patient has a viral infection, there is no need for a prescription.

The survey found that "between one and three and one in four of the Irish population expected an antibiotic prescription by the time they were sick enough to get to a doctor. Yhey were perceiving a prescription as value for money".

Overuse of antibiotics has led to the rise in antibiotic resistance bacteria, "superbugs", both nationally and internationally.

Dr Fitzpatrick said that when it comes to our antibiotic usage, we are "mid to high when we compare ourselves with European countries".

"When you map our antibiotic use with our rates of antibiotic resistance, in general they run in parallel and that makes sense because as you use more antibiotics, you are creating an environment where bugs become more resistant," she said.

"When you have antibiotic resistance, you need to use more broad spectrum antibiotics, more powerful antibiotics, which develops more antibiotic resistance."

Dr Fitzpatrick, who is also a senior lecturer in microbiology at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), advised that antibiotics should be taken exactly as prescribed and the course finished.


"Let's say if you have a hundred million bugs causing an infection, and usually in the first day or two, you start feeling better, and that is because 90pc of those bugs have been killed off," she said.

"But you are still left with a small 10pc which are still actively dividing. So you need the rest of the course to kill them and finish them off.

"If you stop taking the antibiotic, these bugs, these bacteria have seen the antibiotic and they are natural survivors. So they are going to develop resistance," she added.

"Now you are left with an antibiotic resistant infection, or at very least, you may have antibiotic resistant bugs.

"The next time you get a similar infection, the first set of antibiotics won't work," she said.

Antibiotics are medicines used to treat infections caused by bacteria. They don't work against infections caused by viruses, such as colds and influenza.

The topic of antibiotic resistance and superbugs will be discussed at the final lecture of the RCSI's MiniMed Lecture series on Wednesday March 25.

The free event will be held from 7pm to 9pm at the RCSI at St Stephen's Green.

The double lecture entitled 'Have the superbugs won or can we still preserve antibiotics for the next generation?', will be delivered by Dr Fitzpatrick and Dr Nuala O'Connor.


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