|Doctors should reduce the use of antibiotics|
|Tuesday, 26 January 2010 00:00|
Antibiotics were the single greatest life-saving advance of 20th century medicine. Yet there is now a danger that our grandchildren will be as vulnerable to simple biological infections as our grandparents were.
As The Herald reports today, despite a long-running campaign to limit the unnecessary (and marginal) use of antibiotics, it has emerged there was a rise in prescribing of more than 18% between 2004 and 2008. The upward trend, after several years of welcome decline to 2000, may be explained partly by more patients with severe or persistent infections being required to take higher doses, rather than more people receiving the medication. Nevertheless, these figures require further investigation.
It has been known for years that antibiotics are a cause of, as well as a cure for, infections. Prescriptions for conditions not caused by bacteria (such as most sore throats), as well as patients failing to finish a course of antibiotics, result in killing off healthy bacteria in the gut, while allowing the naturally-resistant ones to build on their genetic advantage. The particular concern in Scotland is the way this practice increases the risk of the hospital-linked superbug Clostridium difficile, which played a part in the deaths of nearly 800 people in Scotland in 2008.