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Use term ‘drug resistant infections’ to reduce antibiotic resistance

30 July 2015

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If doctors use the term ‘drug resistant infections’ rather than ‘antibiotic resistance’ more patients would complete a full course of necessary antibiotics, and it would also reduce unneccessary antibiotic, the Wellcome Trust said.

British people largely thought that antibiotic resistance meant their body becomes resistant to antibiotics, rather than the bacteria that cause drug-resistant infections.

Therefore patients often either fail to complete a course of antibiotics, believing that this will prevent their bodies from becoming resistant, or have a positive relationship with antibiotics and feel the drugs validate the fact they were ill and hadn’t “wasted the doctor’s time” or their own, research found.  

Failure to complete a course of antibiotics can be a major factor in the development of drug-resistant infections, as it exposes germs to enough of the drug to promote resistance, but not enough to kill them. Similarly, in many cases people want to be prescribed antibiotics, whatever the nature of the illness they have, and will deploy a series of tactics to ensure they do, which may contribute to antibiotic overuse.

Responding to the study carried out by consultancy firm Good Business, 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.”

If patients understand that the issue was about infections like strep throat, urinary tract infections (UTIs) or E-coli made the problem of antibiotic resistance seem common, as most people who took part in the research interviews had previously had at least one of these illnesses and been treated with antibiotics.

“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,” Henderson added.