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Antiobiotics no longer the super cure

With winter just around the corner, we need to be especially vigilant against asking our doctor for antibiotics to treat some of the common winter ailments.

Most of us will have already read warnings that there is a risk antibiotics are being oversubscribed, causing them to lose effect.

But now there is new supporting evidence of this to show not only are antibiotics losing their effect, but that the rate that they are losing their effect is increasing.

A study undertaken at Cardiff University looked at around 11 million antibiotic prescriptions in the UK; assessing antibiotic treatment failure rates in four of the most common infections - upper respiratory tract infections; lower respiratory tract infections; skin and soft tissue infections and acute otitis media. This covers some of the most common infections we suffer such as sinusitis, sore throats, bronchitis and skin infections.

The study looked at the records over a 22 year time scale, between 1991 and 2012 and the results showed that antibiotic treatment failures has risen by 12%, from a failure rate of 13.9% in 1991 to a failure rate of 15.4% in 2012.

Antibiotic treatments for different conditions had varied levels of success, with bronchitis and pneumonia showing the most resistance, with an increased failure rate of 35%.

There were different failure rates between the actual antibiotics used. For instance, failure rate for commonly prescribed antibiotics such as amoxicillin and penicillin were below 20% but Trimethoprim showed a failure rate of 40%.

In the same research, it was also found that the proportions of infections being treated with antibiotics continued to rise; in the ten years between 2000 and 2012 the proportion of infections being treated with antibiotics rose from 60% to 65%.

Professor Craig Currie, from the School of Medicine at Cardiff University, said that this confirmation of the growing ineffectiveness of antibiotics is very worrying, especially as there is a lack of new antibiotics being developed.

He said: "We need to ensure that patients receive the appropriate medication for their condition and minimise any unnecessary or inappropriate treatment which could be fuelling microbial resistance to antibiotics."

Many doctors are already being very careful about prescribing antibiotics for common winter ailments but some have difficulty in explaining the problems to patients who are desperate for a quick cure of their sore throat or other condition.

Hopefully this latest research will help patients understand why doctors are becoming more reluctant to prescribe antibiotics for common winter ailments.

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