Patient Physician


Misconceptions about antibiotics and the health threat posed by antibiotic resistance are common around the world, according to findings from a multicountry survey from the World Health Organization (WHO) released on the 16th of November, 2015.

The survey conducted online and in person, asked nearly 10,000 adults about the use and knowledge of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance. It was conducted in 12 countries including: Barbados, China, Egypt, India,Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, the Russian federation, Serbia, South Africa, Sudan, and Vietnam. Among the common misconceptions highlighted by the WHO:

  • Three quarters (76%) of respondents think antibiotic resistance happens when the body (not bacteria) become resistant to antibiotics.
  • Two thirds (66%) believe that individuals are not at risk for a drug resistant infection if they personally take their antibiotics as prescribed. Nearly half (44%) of respondents think antibiotic resistance is only a problem for people who take antibiotics regularly.
  • More than half (57%) of respondents think there is not much they can do to stop antibiotic resistance, and 64% believe the medical community will solve the problem before it becomes a serious threat.
  • Nearly two thirds (64%) say they know antibiotic resistance is an issue that could affect them and their families, but how it affects them and what they can do to address it are not well understood.
  • Nearly two thirds (64%) of respondents believe antibiotics can be used to treat viruses, and one third (32%) believe they can stop taking antibiotics when they better, rather than completing the prescribed course of treatment.

Overuse and misuse of antibiotics in people and animals are fundamental drivers of antibiotic resistance, Keji Fuja, MD, special representative of the director-general for antimicrobial resistance, noted during briefing. Antibiotics are a “global good that we need to handle with care,” which is the theme of the WHO campaign, he added.

Health professionals added, Dr. Chan, “need to treat antibiotics as a precious commodity and try to resist the pressure from individual patients who come in with a cold or flu or viral infection asking for antibiotics. It will be important for doctors  who are very trusted by their patients to explain to them why for any viral infection antibiotics are not needed. And when they provide a full course of antibiotics, they need to remind patients to take the full course,” she said.


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