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Antibiotics Not To Be Used As Cold, Flu Treatment, Say Experts: Misuse Could Lead to Drug Resistance

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Over a quarter of Australians still think that antibiotics are effective for treating cold and flu, according to the latest research.

A study from NPS MedicineWise, conducted as part of Antibiotic Awareness Week from Nov. 16 to 22, showed that 28 percent of surveyed Australians still deemed antibiotics as appropriate cold and flu treatment.

The nonprofit group warned that dangerous belief that can further fuel the growing antibiotic resistance problem.

“[U]nless we dramatically reduce antibiotic prescribing when they're not needed, we are looking to a future where they may no longer work when they are really needed," said Dr. Lynn Weekes, CEO of NPS MedicineWise.

The study, which covered over 2,500 individuals ages 16 and above, also found a four percent decrease in those asking for antibiotic medication when going to the doctor.

In the country alone, some golden staph and gonorrhea stains are already exhibiting resistance to a number of antibiotics.

Antibiotics are a primary tool to fight bacterial infections in both humans and animals. Contrary to popular belief, however, they may not always be effective as it has been widely proven that bacteria can adapt and find ways to survive the medication.

Tom Lewis, medical microbiologist and antimicrobial stewardship expert in the United Kingdom, said that bugs that reside in gut flora are crucial in keeping people health.

“[B]ut recent research shows how they help our immune systems develop, which may be part of stopping us getting asthma and other allergies,” he explained, citing the link between antibiotic use and the rise in these allergies.

He added that as gut flora affects weight, using antibiotics may also increase obesity and diabetes risk.

Lewis said that antibiotics should be for conditions such as meningitis and sepsis, but not for cases where they are not going to help, including common winter sicknesses.

Cullompton-based general practitioner Dr. David Jenner echoed the warning, saying that kids and adults are being unnecessarily prescribed with antibiotics. He encouraged, however, giving the drugs only to those who will most probably benefit from them.

“The other message is encouraging people look after themselves this winter and getting them to talk to their pharmacy to make sure they have the right medicines they need,” he said.

Every year in the United States, at least 2 million individuals become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 23,000 die directly from these infections, including the "super bug" methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

CDC calls for the right use of antibiotics, encouraging patients to avoid taking them for virus-induced conditions like colds, flu, and most sore throats. Instead, patients are advised to seek natural symptom relief or let the illness run its full course.

Photo: Bev Sykes | Flickr

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