Reduce inappropriate antibiotic use or risk squandering important medical advance, warns consultant

A local expert has warned that unless the public takes steps to reduce inappropriate antibiotic use we risk squandering one of the most important medical advances of the past 100 years.

Professor Martin Cormican, a consultant microbiologist at Galway University Hospitals was speaking in advance of European Antibiotic Awareness Day - which aims to stop unnecessary use of antibiotics and reduce antibiotic resistance - which takes place on Thursday next.

“Since their development over 60 years ago antibiotics have saved millions of lives through the treatment of bacterial infections,” he stated. “Many of the advances in modern medicine, such as cancer chemotherapy, organ transplants and joint replacement surgery would not be possible without them. However, antibiotics have also been misused and are often prescribed unnecessarily for infections such as colds and flu where they have no effect. We must take steps to reduce inappropriate antibiotic use otherwise we risk squandering one of the most important medical advances of the past 100 years.

“At GUH [Galway University Hospitals - UHG and Merlin Park] we have an antimicrobial management team to address all aspects of hospital antimicrobial therapy from the laboratory through to the patient’s bedside and a key focus of the team is to make sure that antibiotic use is appropriate.”

The team, which comprises consultants in microbiology and infectious diseases, an antimicrobial pharmacist, senior pharmacists, medical scientists and nursing staff, was set up in December 2008.

It has already achieved significant savings of more than €1 million from the decrease in antibiotic consumption at the hospital. This was achieved by updating antimicrobial prescribing guidelines, ward rounds, restriction of certain antimicrobials, use of oral therapy where possible, and feedback to prescribers.

Professor Cormican outlined that the EU has identified inappropriate antibiotic use as a serious health issue.

“Hence the introduction of the European Antibiotic Awareness Day. The participation by GUH in the day is one aspect of our ongoing commitment to reducing inappropriate antibiotic use.”


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