December 2, 2022

Appropriate use of antibiotics


Antibiotics can only treat diseases caused by bacteria. However, there is a common misconception that they can also treat viral conditions, such as the common cold, bronchitis, and the flu. This poor public education, surrounding the use of antibiotics, in addition to inappropriate prescriptions by doctors, has led to increased resistance to antibiotics in the population, which threatens to reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics, which could make them ineffective. against common infections, making them much more threatening to public health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines the appropriate use of antimicrobials as cost-effective use of antimicrobials that maximizes clinical therapeutic effect while minimizing both drug-related toxicity and the development of antimicrobial resistance ”. Observing the correct use of antibiotics is essential to tackle the threat of antibiotic resistance, which is considered one of the most pressing threats to global health.


Antibiotics. Image Credit: ESB Professional /

Increased resistance to antibiotics

Rising antibiotic resistance threatens global health, food security and economic development. Antibiotic resistance affects all regions and populations of the world. Although it is a natural process, the improper use of antibiotics speeds up the process, which in turn reduces the effectiveness of antibiotics, making common infections more serious and persistent.

Several infections, in particular, have been significantly affected by the misuse of antibiotics, including gonorrhea, pneumonia, salmonellosis and pneumonia. As a result, patients are hospitalized, medical costs and mortality increase.

In some parts of the world, resistance to antibiotics is increasing particularly rapidly, resistance mechanisms emerge and spread rapidly in the population. The threat to human health is very real and global health agencies are calling for the enforcement of the appropriate use of antibiotics to reduce the rate at which antibiotic resistance is increasing. Here we are discussing the proper use of antibiotics which should be followed by doctors and patients.

Correct use of antibiotics

More and more evidence is emerging revealing the extent of the inappropriate use of antibiotics in the treatment of a wide range of diseases. For example, studies have shown that more than half of the antibiotics prescribed are unnecessary, demonstrating the inappropriate and widespread prescribing of antibiotics by physicians.

An example of when doctors do not prescribe antibiotics correctly is the treatment of infections. With some infections, bacteria or a virus can be responsible. Therefore, doctors need to know how to determine the underlying cause to avoid prescribing antibiotics for viral illness, which occurs in about 50-80% of patients who likely have a viral infection rather than a bacterial infection.

Pharyngitis is one of the conditions most often poorly prescribed, with over 80% of cases with a viral etiology being prescribed antibiotics. Another example is the treatment of otitis media in children, where antibiotics are often prescribed even when the benefits do not outweigh the disadvantages of common adverse events.

Scientists recommend putting more emphasis on physicians doing their due diligence to ensure that they only prescribe antibiotics when necessary, in particular, do not prescribe them for conditions that may be caused by viruses. In addition, they stress the need to educate the public on the proper use of antibiotics, to prevent them from asking for prescriptions for antibiotics when they are not needed.

There are several common scenarios where antibiotics are unnecessarily prescribed, if the public and physicians could be alerted to these common inappropriate uses, it could limit the extent of inappropriate use and help curb rates of resistance acceleration. antibiotics. These inappropriate common uses include the prescription of antibiotics in case of fever in the absence of symptoms of infection, bacterial infections which generally resolve themselves (diarrheal diseases for example), asymptomatic bacteriuria (except in pregnant women) and asymptomatic colonization of skin ulcers. , wounds and injuries.

Antibiotics are also commonly sought after for illnesses caused by viruses rather than bacteria such as the common cold, sore throat (except strep throat), flu, and many cases of chest colds. Also, some common bacterial infections usually do not require antibiotics although they are often prescribed for them, such as sinus infections and some ear infections. Typically, antibiotics should only be prescribed to treat certain bacterial infections, such as strep throat, whooping cough, and urinary tract infections (UTIs), among others.

Moving forward to prevent antibiotic resistance

It is urgent to apply the correct use of antibiotics to fight against the acceleration of antibiotic resistance in the population. Individuals can help with these efforts by using only prescribed antibiotics and not requiring antibiotics if a doctor has deemed them unnecessary. Policymakers can help by launching national strategies to tackle antibiotic resistance as well as to improve surveillance of antibiotic-resistant infections and promote appropriate use of antibiotics.

Finally, healthcare professionals have a duty to prescribe antibiotics only when needed, to educate patients on how to take antibiotics correctly, and to encourage patients to adopt behaviors that prevent infection, such as hand washing, vaccinations, and safer sex.

Antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance. Image Credit: Lightspring /