A new global study launched during World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW, 18-24 November) shows a high dependence on antibiotics for treating respiratory conditions like sore throat, which is helping to fuel antibiotic resistance, the third leading cause of death worldwide, associated with 4.95 million deaths a year.
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The Sore Throat & Antibiotic Resistance (STAR) study, commissioned by the Global Respiratory Infection Partnership (GRIP) and Reckitt, the makers of Strepsils, found that over half of adults surveyed had taken antibiotics for a respiratory condition like a sore throat in the past six months despite antibiotics being ineffective for 9 out of 10 sore throats.
Upper respiratory tract infections represent the leading cause for global antibiotic misuse in adults.
The STAR study findings suggest that a misunderstanding of how to treat sore throats is contributing to antibiotic overuse. 61% of adults under 35 believe antibiotics are effective for a sore throat, and almost half (45%) this age group don't know how to treat respiratory conditions without antibiotics.
This high level of confusion may explain why 38% of under 35s feel anxious about being treated for respiratory conditions like a sore throat without antibiotics.
However, this anxiety is mostly misplaced.
Almost all sore throats don't require antibiotics as they are caused by viruses, not bacterial infections. Sufferers usually benefit more from anti-inflammatory throat lozenges and painkillers for their symptoms.
Commenting on the study, GRIP Chair Professor Sabiha Essack says: "The results of this study are of concern as the under 35s - our leaders and workforce of the future - incorrectly believe that antibiotics work for all sore throats and colds and may be unaware of the consequences of inappropriate antibiotic use on a personal and public health level.
"GRIP is calling for awareness and education on appropriate antibiotic use and urging young people to ask questions to help fight antibiotic resistance." ■