‘Act now on over-dependence on antibiotics’

Dr Michael McBride. (Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye)
Dr Michael McBride. (Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye)

Northern Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride has urged action to be taken now to prevent growing resistance to antibiotics.

Dr McBride gave the stark warning that this was a life and death matter as he launched his 10th Annual Report.

He said the threat of antibiotic resistance cannot be overstated. “This is the greatest danger to human health and to medicines worldwide,” he said.

“Currently 700,000 people die worldwide each year from drug resistant infections and this figure is forecasted to reach 10 million deaths by 2050, if the problem is ignored. This statistic should be enough to make us all stop and think about the impact of the continued over-use and misuse of antibiotics.

“If we don’t act now, it could mean that even the simplest infections cannot be treated and the most straightforward operations cannot be performed.

“This is an issue that affects every single one of us and could have devastating consequences. It is vital that we tackle this problem urgently so we can safeguard the health of ourselves, our children and future generations.”

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria become resistant to the antibiotics designed to treat infections.

This is deemed dangerous because people need antibiotics during routine operations, and could lead to infectious diseases like pneumonia becoming untreatable.

Dr McBride continued: “We know that Northern Ireland’s antibiotic usage is higher on average than the rest of the UK and 30 per cent higher than England, with 1.9 million individual antibiotic prescriptions issued annually. Northern Ireland’s contribution to this global crisis is clearly significant and we must drive this down.

“The good news is that we can all do something to help prevent the growth of antibiotic resistance. We are not powerless to stop this from happening.”

Thee most important thing people can do is to good hand hygiene to help prevent the spread of infection in the first place, and speak to your GP or pharmacist before you request an antibiotic.