What is Antimicrobial Resistance and why is it important?

18th November 2023

Antimicrobial resistance is when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time, so they no longer respond to medicines. This can result in easier spread of disease, severe illness and even death.

The main reason for antimicrobial resistance is the over-use of antibiotics. We are taking them too often and for too many ailments and illnesses, so bacteria mutate over time and are less affected by medicines.

Antimicrobial resistance makes infections harder to treat and it makes major surgery and treatments such as chemotherapy become very high risk. 

This World Antibiotic Awareness Week (18 – 24 November), health and care staff as well as patients from across Norfolk and Waveney are being reminded of the dangers of antimicrobial resistance and that antibiotics should not be prescribed for minor illnesses.

This year’s campaign, “Preventing antimicrobial resistance together,” highlights that antimicrobial resistance is a threat to humans, animals, plants and the environment. It affects us all. People can help by:  

  • preventing infections by regularly washing their hands, practicing good food hygiene, and avoiding close contact with sick people;
  • keeping vaccinations up to date;  
  • only using antibiotics when prescribed by a certified health professional; 
  • always taking the full prescription; 
  • never using left-over antibiotics; and
  • never sharing antibiotics with others. 

Michael Dennis, Chief Pharmacist at NHS Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Board said “Antibiotics play a crucial role in modern healthcare and are vitally important drugs. However, it is important that they are used correctly to make sure they remain effective in the future. 

“We have higher than average levels of antibiotic prescriptions in Norfolk and Waveney, and it’s vitally important that both healthcare professionals and patients are aware of the risks of antimicrobial resistance.

“People can play their part in helping to keep these important drugs effective by practicing good hygiene around the home and only taking antibiotics if they are prescribed by a doctor. If you have a cold or cough, please ask your pharmacist for advice as antibiotics will do absolutely nothing to help with your symptoms. 

“By all working together and using antibiotics appropriately, we can make sure the medication will remain effective for times when it really is needed.”  

Find out more about World Antibiotic Awareness Week, antimicrobial resistance, and some FAQs about antibiotics here.

For more information on how your community pharmacy can help you manage minor illnesses at home, visit our Pharmacy Services page.