UK public dont understand meaning of antibiotic resistance

UK public dont understand meaning of antibiotic resistance

Few of those interviewed believed they overused or misused antibiotics so thought resistance would not be a problem for them.

The research, which was conducted by the consultancy firm Good Business, involved 82 people who had taken antibiotics over the past 12 months.

The responses suggest that people understand the concept more readily when doctors, the media and other communicators talk about “drug-resistant infections” or “antibiotic-resistant germs”, rather than “antibiotic resistance.”

The misconception could help to explain why many people who are prescribed antibiotics fail to complete the course, believing that this will prevent their bodies from becoming resistant.

The research also revealed that the language currently used by the media and scientists to describe the problem of antibiotic resistance is meaningless or puts people off.

For example, reports that estimate antibiotic resistance could cost the economy trillions of dollars, or lead to millions of extra deaths a year, were difficult to grasp, leaving them feeling distanced from the problem, the interviewees said.

Interviewees also felt that getting antibiotic was validation that they were ill, both for themselves and others, and that they hadn’t “wasted the doctor’s time or my own,” which may be contributing to antibiotic overuse.But people were much more receptive when they were presented with real examples of how antibiotic resistance could affect them or their families, or with reference to specific bacterial infections that they might have had.

The scale of the problem was best explained when researchers showed people pictures of six common resistant bacteria which are becoming harder to treat.

Understanding that the issue was about infections like strep throat, urinary tract infections (UTIs) or E colimade the problem seem common, as most interviewees had had at least one of these illnesses and been treated with antibiotics.

Explaining that antibiotic resistance could make routine operations like hip replacements or caesareans deadly was also effective.

Mark Henderson, Head of Communications at the Wellcome Trust, said: “Wider awareness of the problem of drug-resistant infections could be an important part of the solution, as people who appreciate the issue should be more likely to accept medical advice when antibiotics aren’t the right option for them. It was encouraging to see that a small shift in language, from ‘antibiotic resistance’ to ‘drug-resistant infections’, could do so much to build this understanding. We’ll be using this at the Wellcome Trust, and would encourage doctors, other health professionals and the media to use it as well.”

Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies said: “The public are an essential part of the fight against drug-resistance infections, and we need to understand how to best communicate with them so that they understand why antibiotic-resistance germs develop, the impact that this could have on individuals and their families and the actions that people can take to help the fight.”She added: “People are already dying from drug resistant infections in the UK and we all need to act if we are going to tackle the problem.”

Dr Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, described the research as “worrying,” adding: "It shows that despite our efforts, we are failing at getting this message across to those who most need to realise it— our patients.”

She continued: “We all have a responsibility to curb this trend, and we need to work together to make the public realise that prescribing antibiotics is not always the answer to treating minor, self-limiting illness.”

The RCGP and Public Health England have developed the TARGET antibiotics toolkit, to support GPs in the appropriate prescribing of antibiotics, she said.

By Caroline White

On Medica, Wednesday 30 Jul 2015



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