The first World Antibiotic Awareness Week will be observed between 16 to 22 November to encourage best practice among the general public, health workers, policy-makers and the agriculture sector to avoid further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance.
The campaign urges people to “handle antibiotics with care”, because when antibiotics are misused or over prescribed bacteria become resistant to their effects, making some infectious diseases difficult – sometimes impossible – to treat. Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health today. It can affect anyone, of any age, in any country.
Awareness of global antibiotic resistance
World Antibiotic Awareness Week aims to increase awareness of global antibiotic resistance and to encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policy makers to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance. A global action plan to tackle the growing problem of resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines was endorsed at the Sixty-eighth World Health Assembly in May 2015. One of the key objectives of the plan is to improve awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance through effective communication, education and training.
Antibiotic precious resource, preserve it
The theme of the campaign, Antibiotics: Handle with Care, reflects the overarching message that antibiotics are a precious resource and should be preserved. They should be used to treat bacterial infections, only when prescribed by a certified health professional. Antibiotics should never be shared and the full course of treatment should be completed – not saved for the future.
WHO encouraging member states to join campaign
WHO is encouraging all Member States and health partners to join this campaign and help raise awareness of this issue. A variety of resources will be made available to support local campaigns including factsheets, infographics, posters and antibiotics materials.
Antibiotic resistance occurs naturally, but misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is accelerating the process.
A growing number of infections—such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and gonorrhoea—are becoming harder to treat as the antibiotics used to treat them become less effective.
Antibiotic resistance leads to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased mortality.
What are antibiotics?
Antibiotics are medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of these medicines. Bacteria, not humans, become antibiotic resistant. These bacteria may then infect humans and are harder to treat than non-resistant bacteria.
Antibiotic resistance leads to higher medical cost
Antibiotic resistance leads to higher medical costs, prolonged hospital stays and increased mortality. In the European Union alone, drug-resistant bacteria are estimated to cause 25,000 deaths and cost more than US$1.5 billion every year in healthcare expenses and productivity losses. The world urgently needs to change the way we prescribe and use antibiotics. Even if new medicines are developed, without behaviour change, antibiotic resistance will remain a major threat. Behaviour changes must also include actions to reduce the spread of infections through vaccination, hand washing and good food hygiene.
Scope of the problem
Antibiotic resistance is rising to dangerously high levels in all parts of the world. New resistance mechanisms emerge and spread globally every day, threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases. A growing list of infections—such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning and gonorrhoea—are becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat as antibiotics become less effective.
In countries where antibiotics can be bought without a prescription, emergence and spread of resistance is made worse. Similarly, in countries without standard treatment guidelines, antibiotics are often over-prescribed by health workers and over-used by the public.
Without urgent action, we are heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.
The global action plan has 5 strategic objectives:
- To improve awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance
- To strengthen surveillance and research
- To reduce the incidence of infection
- To optimize the use of antimicrobial medicines
- To ensure sustainable investment in countering antimicrobial resistance.