Antibiotic resistance is the increasing ability of bacteria that cause infections to resist the effects of an antibiotic prescribed by a doctor.
Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in some way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of drugs designed to cure or prevent infections. The bacteria survive and continue to multiply causing more harm.
When you should be concerned about antibiotic resistance
Antibiotic resistance has been called one of the world's most pressing public health problems. Almost every type of bacteria has become stronger and less responsive to antibiotic treatment when it is really needed.
If a bacteria is resistant to many drugs, the infections it causes can become difficult or even impossible to treat. These antibiotic resistant bacteria can quickly spread from person to person. In this way a hard-to-treat illness can be spread through the community.
A common misconception is that a person's body becomes resistant to specific drugs. However, it is the bacteria and other microbes, not people, that become resistant to the drugs.
Actions you can take
There are some simple actions you can take personally:
- To practice good hand hygiene - washing your hands regularly, and for 20 seconds is one of the best public health protective measures you can take.
- Take up the offer of vaccinations you are eligible for such as Flu and Covid-19 - this will protect you from common infections in the first place.
- Treat mild infections like coughs, colds and sore throats with over the counter medicines - most mild infections do not require antibiotics. Talk to a pharmacist about how to treat the symptoms first rather than going to the GP.
- If you are unwell and you are prescribed antibiotics, please take the full course of antibiotics as prescribed - never save them for later or share them with others.
- Dot not to dispose of antibiotics at home as they could enter the environment and act as an environmental microbe pollutant - always take any unused antibiotics to a pharmacy for safe disposal.
These actions also align to the Antibiotic Guardian pledge.
What the council is doing
- We deliver evidence led multi-targeted training sessions to raise awareness, educate and prompt interventions to change behaviour and reduce the use of antibiotics. (We target services we commission and are responsible for, such as health and social care professionals, residential and care settings, community pharmacies, schools and early years providers).
- We pro-actively support settings to prevent infections and reduce the number of infections through our commissioned Infection Prevention Control (IPC) service.
- We promote good hand hygiene as part of Public Health's communication and social marketing plans.
- We raise awareness of antibiotic resistance, and the actions individuals can take such as making a pledge to become an antibiotic guardian.
- We promote the correct disposal of unused medication (including antibiotics) as part of standard council messages on household waste and recycling.
- Antibiotic Guardian - Antibiotic Guardian was developed in 2014 by UK Health Security Agency and supports the UK Antibiotic Resistance strategy and the annual European Antibiotic Awareness Day and World Antibiotic Awareness Week.
- Seriously resistant - Working with healthcare professionals, educators, scientists, councils, employers, community groups and individuals, the Seriously Resistant messages have been shared across County Durham, Sunderland, and South Tyneside.
- e-Bug - The e-Bug programme, operated by the UK Health Security Agency, is a health education programme and provides free resources for schools, parents and carers to support children and young people to play their role in infection prevention and control.