Irish healthcare workers among best informed in Europe about antibiotic use

Call for all sectors of society to work together to effectively tackle the problem of antibiotic resistance

The Irish Patients’ Association says  33,000 people a year die in Europe as a direct consequence of an infection from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Photograph: Getty Images

The Irish Patients’ Association says 33,000 people a year die in Europe as a direct consequence of an infection from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Irish healthcare workers are among the best informed in Europe about antibiotic use and resistance, a new survey indicates.

Over 70 per cent of Irish health professionals were able to answer seven questions out of seven on the issue correctly, according to the study by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Only Croatia did better.

The true-or-false questions included the statements “antibiotics are effective against viruses” (false) and “antibiotic resistant bacteria can spread from person to person” (true).

Patients should not expect a script when they go to the doctor. Indeed they should ask their doctor ‘Do I really need this antibiotic?'

However, the study, released for European Antibiotic Awareness Day on Monday, shows one Irish doctor in eight reported prescribing an antibiotic in the previous week because they had no time. One Irish doctor in 10 said they had written a prescription for one to maintain a relationship with a patient.

Describing these results as “concerning”, the Irish Patients’ Association pointed out that 33,000 people a year die in Europe as a direct consequence of an infection from antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

“Patients should not expect a script when they go to the doctor. Indeed they should ask their doctor ‘Do I really need this antibiotic?’” according to its spokesman Stephen McMahon.

With antibiotic resistance on the rise it is estimated that by 2050, 10 million people per year will die due to infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria unless action is taken now.

Used carefully

Consultant microbiologist Prof Martin Cormican, HSE national lead for antibiotic resistance, said antibiotics were wonder drugs “when properly used”, but have to be used carefully to get the most benefit for people who need them while protecting people who don’t from side-effects and antibiotic resistance.

Addressing ahead of a public meeting on the issue in Galway on Monday evening, Dr Dearbháile Morris, co-director of the school of medicine at NUI Galway, said the only effective way to tackle the problem of antibiotic resistance was for all sectors of society to work together.

Doctors have warned against the over-use of antibiotics. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times
Antibiotics: wonder drugs “when properly used”, but must be used carefully to get the most benefit for people who need them. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

“The health of humans, the health of animals and the health of our environment are interlinked. We can safeguard antibiotics by making sure we only use them when we need them, by making sure we complete the dose as directed by the doctor, by not sharing antibiotics with others, and by making sure we bring back any unused antibiotics to the pharmacy for correct disposal.”

What is your knowledge of antibiotics?

Say whether the following questions are true or false:

- Antibiotics are effective against viruses

- Antibiotics are effective against cold and flu

- Taking antibiotics has associated side effects or

risks such as diarrhoea, colitis, allergies

- Healthy people can carry antibiotic-resistant

bacteria

- Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can spread from

person to person

- Every person treated with antibiotics is at an

increased risk of antibiotic resistant infection

(Answer: the first two statements are false, and the rest are true)