The World Health Organization recently published the results of an international survey that was aimed to find out if people understood the use of antibiotics and antibiotic-resistance.

Published on the first day of World Antibiotics Week (running Nov 16-20) and on the launch of Antibiotics: Handle with Care – the WHO’s first ever campaign for the improved use of antibiotics, the survey highlights the common misconceptions that the public has on antibiotic use and resistance.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria, not humans, become resistant to the antibiotics used on them. It is the spread of these bacteria that then causes the spread of infections that are antibiotic-resistant and much harder to treat, which is an increasingly worrying problem for the WHO.

The organisation questioned some 10,000 participants across a diverse selection of 12 countries which included Barbados, China, Vietnam, Sudan, South Africa, Serbia, Russian Federation, Nigeria, Mexico, Indonesia, India, and Egypt. Interviews were carried out both online and face to face.

The results show that while many (64%) know that antibiotic-resistance is a problem, more than half (57%) wrongly believe that there is nothing they can do to prevent its increase. Forty-four per cent also mistakenly believe that antibiotic resistance only affects those who take antibiotics regularly, and 66% believe antibiotic resistance doesn’t affect those who take antibiotics as prescribed.

In fact anyone – regardless of age, country, or antibiotic consumption – can catch an antibiotic-resistant infection, and we can all play a part in halting the spread of antibiotic-resistant diseases.

For example, antibiotics are not effective in treating viruses, although 64% of those questioned believed that antibiotics can be used to treat colds and flu, and a course of antibiotics should always be finished, despite 32% of those surveyed believing that a course can be stopped once the individual feels better.

Other precautions and control measures that the WHO wants to highlight during this week’s campaign include:

– Washing hands and practising good hygiene to help prevent the spread of diseases
– Only use antibiotics that have been prescribed by a doctor
– Never share antibiotics
– Never use antibiotics that have been left over from a previous illness – AFP Relaxnews