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Ease Up On Antibiotic Use

Doctors, patients warned -- again

(HealthDay) -- The beginning of another cold and flu season is nearly upon us, and doctors are again being warned that they shouldn't keep prescribing antibiotics as freely as they have in the past.

According to an article from the BBC, some antibiotics are no longer as effective because doctors in the United States are inappropriately prescribing them for sore throats and other ailments.

The World Health Organization has issued a warning that people are building up dangerous levels of resistance to antibiotics worldwide. As a result, killer diseases could re-emerge. For example, tuberculosis strains in two countries are now resistant to two of the most effective drugs commonly used to treat them. And some anti-malarial medicines are almost useless. WHO officials say doctors and patients both seem to take antibiotics for granted, using them carelessly. In fact, they are considered one of the most significant discoveries of the 20th century.

"Unless we act to protect these medical miracles, we could be heading for a post-antibiotic age in which many medical and surgical advances could be undermined by the risk of incurable infection," WHO Director Gro Harlem Brundtland says in the article.

Researchers say that when you go to your doctor for a sore throat, nine times out of 10, you shouldn't get an antibiotic because most sore throats are a result of a virus -- and antibiotics are ineffective against a virus. But, according to a study from the U.S. National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, 73 percent of patients with sore throats received prescriptions for antibiotics. When doctors cave into patient pressure and prescribe antibiotics, they also run the risk that a patient who uses antibiotics excessively could develop an allergic reaction, the article says.

To find out more, you can read this fact sheet from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, or this article from Scientific American.

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