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Column: I’m an antibiotic guardian

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Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats facing us today. Without effective antibiotics many routine treatments will become increasingly dangerous.

Antibiotics are important medicines used for treating bacterial infections but bacteria can often adapt and find ways to survive.

If the bacterium grows to unusually high levels, some of these in turn may also produce toxin.

Many of us think we are only prescribed antibiotics when we come down with an infection, such as tonsillitis, but in actual fact many procedures such as setting broken bones, basic operations and even chemotherapy all rely on antibiotics.

Public Health England set up the Antibiotic Guardian to help protect antibiotics and improve knowledge about antibiotic resistance. They are calling on everyone in the UK to become Antibiotic Guardians by making one simple pledge to protect these vital medicines.

Resistance rates are rising and taking no action now may lead back to an era pre-antimicrobial discovery with increased mortality from untreatable sepsis. Very few new antibiotics are being developed so, to slow resistance, we need to cut the unnecessary use of the ones we have.

Another problem associated with taking antibiotics is the alteration of the bowel flora, leading to Clostridium difficile. Between four and eight per cent of people carry the C. Difficile bacteria naturally and harmlessly in their gut flora. The balance between the gut’s good and bad bacteria can be upset with prolonged use of broad spectrum antibiotics.

If the bacterium grows to unusually high levels, some of these in turn may also produce toxin, which may lead to mild to severe diarrhoea, or more serious infections such as inflammation of the bowel (pseudomembranous colitis).

Medical staff are avoiding unnecessary prescription of antibiotics and are focusing on not prescribing broad-spectrum antibiotics inappropriately.

So what can you do to help them?

* Become an Antibiotic Guardian – you can sign up at antibioticguardian.com

* If you are prescribed antibiotics by your doctor, take them exactly as prescribed.

* Never save your antibiotics for later

* Always take your prescribed dose at regular intervals

* Never share antibiotics prescribed to you with someone else

* Never skip a dose.

Let’s guard what we have and use it wisely. I’ve signed up to be an antimicrobial guardian, have you?