How this all started – the campaign background
Antibiotic resistance is a very hot news topic. Figures estimate that unless there are substantial changes, antimicrobial resistance (which includes antibiotics resistance) could kill 50 million people worldwide by 2050 – 90,000 of these will be in the UK. This will be more deaths than cancer if current forecasts are correct.
So it’s a problem – but what is antibiotic resistance?
Scottish chemist Alexander Fleming discovered the first true antibiotic, penicillin, in 1928, as a mould that stopped the growth of bacteria. His discovery revolutionised the treatment of certain types of bacterial infection, saving countless lives in the process.
Antibiotics fight bacteria in a number of ways, including by killing them or preventing them from spreading. But some bacteria develop ways to protect them from the drug’s attack.
When this happens the antibiotic can become less effective, or stop working on some types of resistant bacteria.
But what does this mean?
If somebody is infected by these drug-resistant bacteria, then antibiotics might not work.
At present other types of antibiotic can work, but the options are reducing as bacteria develop the ability to resist antibiotics.
A recent report highlights that without effective antibiotics, life-threatening infections linked to operations such as hip replacements and Caesarean sections will increase.
How has this problem occurred?
Inappropriate use of antibiotics is a major cause of the increase in resistance to them. This is because the more antibiotics are used, the less effective they eventually become.
In addition, patients are commonly prescribed antibiotics for infections caused by viruses, although they are only effective on bacteria. This is caused by patient demand for antibiotics and the difficulty for clinicians to distinguish between a bacteria and a virus based on symptoms. For example colds and the flu cannot be treated with antibiotics as they are viral infections. Recent research suggests 38% of people expect to be prescribed antibiotics when they go to the doctor.
A campaign run by Public Health England involves distributing best practices for using antibiotics to all areas of our health service - in particular in community care, as 90% of antibiotics are prescribed by primary care.
They want to see patients and carers educated about the appropriate use of antibiotics and greater efforts to prevent infections in the first place, to reduce the demand for antibiotics.
To help raise awareness of antibiotic resistance, The Gloucestershire Antimicrobial Stewardship Group wanted to engage with one of the most at risk groups, 16-24 year olds. We approached over 40 local schools and colleges (including special schools and alternative provision) and asked students to design a communications campaign, targeting 16-24 year olds to raise awareness of this very serious issue. The winning entry from Gloucestershire College can be viewed here.
We’d love you to take our short quiz about antibiotic resistance and then complete our three question survey to help evaluate this campaign.