Antibiotic Overuse and Resistance: A Growing Threat to Public Health

The misuse of antibiotics and the increasing resistance of bacteria to these drugs was the main topic of a round table in the Chamber of Deputies organized by a health committee member, MP Josef Flek (STAN). Experts pointed out that people tend to want antibiotics even for viral infections, and doctors often prescribe them. However, this strengthens antibiotic resistance, a dangerous trend that grows yearly as antibiotics stop working in treating bacterial infections.

The biggest scare is so-called nosocomial infections, i.e., diseases a weakened person catches in the hospital. “I had an uncle who got covid. He managed it without any problems in the hospital. Still, he was infected with a resistant staphylococcus there and died from it,” Flek said, telling a story from his immediate surroundings. “Antibiotics are not lentils. We must instill this in people’s heads because the pressure to treat colds and flu with antibiotics is high,” he said.

The pressure to treat colds and flu with antibiotics is high

One of the big problems, apart from doctors sometimes prescribing antibiotics for viruses, is also incorrect use of drugs by patients, according to Flek. “From my experience, people stop taking antibiotics at the slightest improvement. Then, of course, they have some left in the box, and in a month, when they catch some virus, they put them on themselves,” Flek said.

“If antibiotics stop working, we’re returning to the Stone Age. Their discovery 93 years ago was a great miracle, but we’re getting to the red line when they may stop working,” warned the MP.

Antibiotics are also mistakenly used for viruses

Helena Žemličková, head of the National Reference Laboratory for Antibiotics at the National Institute of Public Health (SZÚ), said she hoped we were not at the end of the “antibiotic era” yet. “Resistance is growing, though. We isolate bacteria resistant to all available antibiotics,” she said.

“Antibiotic resistance limits patient safety, prolongs hospitalization, and limits the possibility of recovery,” she said, adding that 35,000 people die each year in Europe from infections caused by resistant bacteria. “It’s a significant number, and the trend is growing,” she warned.

Antibiotics for COVID-19

“In the last year, the consumption of antibiotics prescribed for viral infections has increased unbelievably,” Žemličková said, adding that the trend increased during the coronavirus pandemic. “Initial information that antibiotics should be prescribed for Covid, unfortunately, took root in doctors. Microbiologists knew from the beginning that it was nonsense,” she said.

However, the big problem is when doctors prescribe antibiotics for angina and bacterial pneumonia despite a viral infection. This is often done to avoid any risk of complications, but it contributes to developing resistance.