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Why we finish antibiotics

Why we finish antibiotics. As healthcare, or social care providers, one of the key messages that you will have heard is how important it is to follow the instructions provided with prescribed courses of antibiotics. Now, antibiotics should never be shared and the dose and frequency of the drug administration should be carefully followed, if we are to avoid actively encouraging antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria from emerging. Let me explain to you why, as you may remember from the YouTube video that you watched in week on,e there’s a good likelihood that, in a large population of pathogenic bacteria, that we can see in disease, for example, a drug-resistant mutant or perhaps a handful of mutants may emerge.
Then, when we add antibiotics to the mix, what you will see is that the bacteria that are sensitive to the antibiotic are killed and destroyed but the antibiotic resistant bacteria survive, and you can see that here.
It’s the antibiotic resistant bacteria that continue to grow and multiply, even in the presence of the antibiotic, and then after the antibiotic is removed, or we stop using the antibiotic, because the prescribed course is finished, the antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria still dominate. To avoid this, the dose and the frequency of the drug administration, have been carefully considered and designed to minimize opportunities for drug-resistant pathogens to emerge and thrive but this is only the case, if the prescription instructions are followed correctly.

Making sure that we complete our prescribed course of antibiotics is really important. Shorter courses of antibiotics can be just as effective as longer courses for some infections and they are more likely to be completed properly and to have fewer side.

They also reduce the amount of antibiotics that we are consuming which reduces the likelihood of antibiotics entering the environment. However the type of antibiotic and the length of the course needed to completely kill all the bacteria causing the infection is based on the best evidence that we have at the current time. Remember that feeling better, or an improvement in symptoms, does not always mean that the infectious bacteria have been killed or destroyed so the best advice is to always follow the advice on the prescription.

A recent BBC news story discussed whether you should finish a prescribed course of antibiotics. For a thoughtful response to this story please have a look at the following articles:

BSAC responds to BMJ article ‘The antibiotic course has had its day’

The antibiotic course has had its day

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Using Infection Control to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance

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