Threat to Europe from unprescribed antibiotics – WHO

Large numbers of people living on the eastern edge of Europe are acquiring antibiotics without prescriptions – hugely increasing the threat of drug resistance to the continent, the World Health Organization warns today.

WHO called for “immediate intervention” to stem the increasing numbers of deaths associated with antimicrobial resistant bacteria.

Its analysis in 14 countries found that a third of the population use antibiotics obtained without a prescription.

The survey of 8,221 people was undertaken in the western Balkans, the Caucasus and central Asia, including Türkiye. WHO researchers published their findings in Frontiers.

Half of those in the survey had taken antibiotics in the previous year – and a third of these had obtained them without a prescription.

WHO says that antimicrobial resistance is responsible for five million deaths a year – with a tenth of these in its European region.

The survey found that 43% believed antibiotics are effective against viruses – but 67% knew that overusing the drugs could make them ineffective.

Mr Robb Butler, director of communicable diseases for WHO in Europe, said: “This research clearly shows the need for education and awareness raising.

“All countries in our Region have regulations in place to protect precious antibiotics from misuse, for example, preventing over-the-counter sales without a prescription. Enforcing these regulations would solve most antibiotic misuse among humans.”

Frontiers 23 November 2023


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