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World Health Organization Reveals Common Antibiotic Resistance Misunderstandings

11/16/2015 10:48 EST | Updated 11/17/2015 12:59 EST

On Monday, The World Health Organization published the results of its international survey carried out to determine more about the public's knowledge on the use of antibiotics and the increasing spread of antibiotic-resistant diseases.

Published on the first day of World Antibiotics Week (running November 16-20) and on the launch of 'Antibiotics: Handle with care,' the WHO's first ever campaign for the improved use of antibiotics, the survey highlights the misconceptions that the public has on antibiotic use and resistance.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria, not humans, become resistant to the antibiotics used on them. It is the spread of these bacteria that then causes the spread of infections that are antibiotic-resistant and much harder to treat, which is an increasingly worrying problem for the WHO. The organization questioned some 10,000 participants across a diverse selection of 12 countries which included Barbados, China, Vietnam, Sudan, South Africa, Serbia, Russian Federation, Nigeria, Mexico, Indonesia, India, and Egypt. Interviews were carried out both online and face to face.

The results show that while many (64 per cent) know that antibiotic-resistance is a problem, more than half (57 per cent) wrongly believe that there is nothing they can do to prevent its increase. Forty-four percent also mistakenly believe that antibiotic resistance only affects those who take antibiotics regularly, and 66 per cent believe antibiotic resistance doesn't affect those who take antibiotics as prescribed.

In fact anyone, regardless of age, country, or antibiotic consumption, can catch an antibiotic-resistant infection, and we can all play a part in halting the spread of antibiotic-resistant diseases. For example, antibiotics are not effective in treating viruses, although 64 per cent of those questioned believed that antibiotics can be used to treat colds and flu, and a course of antibiotics should always be finished, despite 32 per cent of those surveyed believing that a course can be stopped once the individual feels better.

Other precautions and control measures that the WHO wants to highlight during this week's campaign include:

- Washing hands and practising good hygiene to help prevent the spread of diseases

- Only use antibiotics that have been prescribed by a doctor

- Never share antibiotics

- Never use antibiotics that have been left over from a previous illness