Only use antibiotics if necessary, officials warn

Don't take too many antibiotics, health experts have warned

The consequences of antibiotic resistance, which is on the rise, can be fatal, Swiss health officials have warned. The country has been stepping up measures to fight antibiotic resistance, including new guidelines for health professionals.

This content was published on November 10, 2017 minutes and agencies/ilj

The warning, issued on Friday, comes shortly before the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Antibiotic Awareness WeekExternal link, which starts on November 13.

This year, Switzerland will be holding its own campaign in parallel for the first time, as part of the Swiss National Strategy on Antibiotic Resistance (StARExternal link), said a statementExternal link issued by the Federal Office of Public Health. In addition to a week of events for experts and the public, StAR is providing informationExternal link on antibiotic use and resistance on its website as part of the campaign.

In Switzerland, there are an estimated several hundred deaths from resistant bacteria each year, officials said at a media conference. Although resistance cannot be stopped, it can be slowed down, which is why antibiotics should only be prescribed when really necessary, the health office warned.

It said that in human medicine, antibiotic use has remained stable over the past two years, and that Switzerland is in line with the European average in terms of resistance in the country and antibiotic use in hospitals.

“However, the quantity of antibiotics dispensed is not the unique factor; the quality of prescriptions is equally important,” the office emphasised.

This is why Swiss professional associations are currently drawing up national prescription guidelines. In addition, a new fact sheet for patients has been produced, as a poll last year found that young people in particular did not know much about the issue.

Animals, too

In veterinary medicine, researchers have been examining antibiotic resistance in bacteria affecting pigs, cattle, and poultry. They have found that resistance depends on the animal species, sampling point, and antibiotic. However, there are some areas of concern: the Federal Office of Public Health on Friday called on farmers to rethink industrial farming conditions, as too many animals packed together can result in the development of fatal methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections.

During Antibiotic Awareness Week, Switzerland will focus on exchanging information on the topic of antibiotic resistance, officials said.

WHO warning

The WHO says that antibiotic resistance is rising to dangerously high levels in all parts of the world, and threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases. 

It warns that where antibiotics can be bought for human or animal use without a prescription, the emergence and spread of resistance is made worse. Examples of misuse include taking antibiotics for viral infections like colds and flu, and using them as animal growth promoters on farms or in aquaculture, the WHO said on Thursday in a preparatory statement.

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