Change Can’t Wait. Our Time with Antibiotics is Running Out

Every November, World Antibiotic Awareness Week (WAAW) aims to increase global awareness of antibiotic resistance and to discourage misuse of antibiotics among the general public, health workers and policy makers to avoid the spread of antibiotic resistance.


Key facts

  • Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.
  • Antibiotic resistance can affect anyone, of any age, in any country.
  • Antibiotic resistance occurs naturally, but misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is accelerating the process.
  • A growing number of infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea, and salmonellosis, are becoming harder to treat as the antibiotics used to treat them become less effective.
  • Antibiotic resistance leads to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased mortality.[1]


Antibiotics are medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections.

What is antibiotics resistance?

  • Antibiotic resistance occurs when microbes, such as bacteria, become resistant to the drugs used to treat them, as a result of the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in human and animal health.
  • Bacteria, not humans or animals, become antibiotic-resistant. These antibiotic resistant bacteria may infect humans and animals, and the infections they cause are harder to treat than those caused by non-resistant bacteria.
  • Antibiotic resistance leads to higher medical costs, prolonged hospital stays, and increased mortality.

Scope of the problem

Due to the continuous increasing rise of antibiotic resistance in all parts of the world, is rising to dangerously high levels in all parts of the world, treating common infectious diseases gets harder and harder. A growing list of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning, gonorrhea, and foodborne diseases – are becoming harder, and sometimes impossible to treat as antibiotics become less effective.

When antibiotics are bought for human or animal use without a prescription, the emergence and spread of resistance is made worse. Also, in countries without standard treatment guidelines, antibiotics are often over-prescribed by health workers and veterinarians and over-used by the public.

Without urgent action, we are heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.

Prevention and control

To prevent global spread of antibiotic resistance, urgent steps needs to be taken at all levels of society to reduce the impact and limit the spread of antibiotic resistance.

Steps Individuals can take

To prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, individuals can:

  • Only use antibiotics when prescribed by a certified health professional.
  • Do not request for antibiotics if your health worker says you do not need them.
  • Always follow your health worker’s advice when using antibiotics.
  • Never share or use leftover antibiotics.
  • Prevent infections by regularly washing hands, preparing food hygienically, avoiding close contact with sick people, practicing safer sex, and keeping vaccinations up to date.
  • Prepare food hygienically, following the WHO Five Keys to Safer Food (keep clean, separate raw and cooked, cook thoroughly, keep food at safe temperatures, use safe water and raw materials) and choose foods that have been produced without the use of antibiotics for growth promotion or disease prevention in healthy animals.

Steps Policy makers can take

To prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, policy makers can:

  • Ensure a robust national action plan to tackle antibiotic resistance is in place.
  • Improve surveillance of antibiotic-resistant infections.
  • Strengthen policies, programmes, and implementation of infection prevention and control measures.
  • Regulate and promote the appropriate use and disposal of quality medicines.
  • Make information available on the impact of antibiotic resistance.

Steps Health professionals can take

To prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, health professionals can:

  • Prevent infections by ensuring your hands, instruments, and environment are clean.
  • Only prescribe and dispense antibiotics when they are needed, according to current guidelines.
  • Report antibiotic-resistant infections to surveillance teams.
  • Talk to your patients about how to take antibiotics correctly, antibiotic resistance and the dangers of misuse.
  • Talk to your patients about preventing infections (for example, vaccination, hand washing, safer sex, and covering nose and mouth when sneezing).
  • Health care industry can invest in research and development of new antibiotics, vaccines, diagnostics and other tools.

Steps Agriculture sector can take

To prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, the agriculture sector can:

  • Only give antibiotics to animals under veterinary supervision.
  • Not use antibiotics for growth promotion or to prevent diseases in healthy animals.
  • Vaccinate animals to reduce the need for antibiotics and use alternatives to antibiotics when available.
  • Promote and apply good practices at all steps of production and processing of foods from animal and plant sources.
  • Improve biosecurity on farms and prevent infections through improved hygiene and animal welfare.[2]


When infections can no longer be treated by first-line antibiotics, more expensive medicines must be used. A longer duration of illness and treatment, often in hospitals, increases health care costs as well as the economic burden on families and societies.

Antibiotic resistance is putting the achievements of modern medicine at risk. Organ transplantations, chemotherapy and surgeries such as caesarean sections become much more dangerous without effective antibiotics for the prevention and treatment of infections.

World Antibiotic Awareness Week

World antibiotics awareness week is one way to promote the antibiotics resistance awareness. Held every November since 2015 with the theme “Antibiotics: Handle with care”, the globally there is an increasing volume of activities during the week of the campaign. You can join Royal Victoria Medical Centre for the Antibiotics Awareness Campaign.





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