Antibiotic resistance a ‘major threat to human health’- microbiologist

A senior microbiologist has warned that antibiotic misuse is helping to fuel the spread of resistant superbugs.

Dr Fidelma Fitzpatrick, RCSI Senior Lecturer in Clinical Microbiology, joined the HSE’s call for collaborative action to keep antibiotics working. On the 11th annual European Antibiotic Awareness Day, the HSE warned that patients are less likely to get better on antibiotics than they were 10 or 20 years ago because of the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

Dr Fitzpatrick chaired a session at One Health 2018: A Joint Approach for Healthcare and Veterinary Professionals. The one-day event hosted over 300 healthcare and veterinary professionals who learnt about prescribing and management of antibiotics in human and animal health.

Dr Fitzpatrick has been instrumental in leading RCSI’s antimicrobial resistance awareness initiatives. She has led previous national antibiotic campaigns and researched antibiotics’ effects on infections including sepsis as well as their role in the rise of superbugs.

Dr Fitzpatrick said: “Since their discovery 75 years ago, antibiotics have revolutionised

medical practice and saved millions of lives. Antibiotic resistance, however, poses a major threat to human health, particularly for severe infections such as sepsis.

“Sepsis is a time-dependent medical emergency. For every one hour that antibiotics are delayed mortality goes up by 7.6% and that increases exponentially. Overprescribing antibiotics can reduce their efficacy against sepsis by creating superbugs.

“It is vital that we apply a rational approach in both human and animal health to antibiotic prescribing that maximises the likelihood of successfully treating infections, while minimising the risk of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics are a precious medical resource, we simply could not do our job without them. As prescribers, it is up to us to ensure they are used effectively and their efficacy preserved for future generations.”

Dr Fitzpatrick’s session focused specifically on how antibiotics affect human health; the other two sessions focused on animal health and the environment.

A recent World Health Organisation report revealed that the average consumption of antibiotics across the European region is around 18 DDD per 1,000 inhabitants per day.

A recent study in The Lancent showed that an estimated 33,000 people in Europe died from infections that were resistant to antibiotics in 2015, 7,000 more than previous estimates.

The WHO report finds that amoxicillin and amoxicillin/clavulanic acid – first or second-line treatments for common infections – are the most frequently used antibiotics worldwide.

But the report also found that some third-line treatments, which it urges should be used with caution because of the risk that their overuse could lead to antibiotic resistance, are being consumed at high levels.

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