THE knee-jerk reaction of many people showing all the signs of a bacterial infection has been to demand an antibiotic.
And we’ve generally got what we want.
For a very good reason too: it has usually worked.
But now medical science is showing a more guarded attitude to antibiotics as it has proved more and more difficult to eliminate illnesses, especially those picked up in hospitals themselves.
Chief among these are the superbugs MRSA and clostridium difficile, or C diff, both proving very difficult to eradicate from wards.
There are many theories for this, ranging from suggestions (often politically loaded) that hospitals are no longer cleaned as rigorously as before, to the growing realisation that some species of bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics that have been the stock in trade of treatment for the last 60-odd years.
A new NHS campaign is urging us all – doctors and patients – to limit the amount of antibiotics which we take.
The new guidelines are undoubtedly a step in the right direction and we should all take heed of the message spelled out in campaigns.
In particular, we must come to realise that antibiotics only work against illnesses caused by bacteria and do not work against colds, which are caused by viruses.
It is important to limit the use of antibiotics to situations in which they are necessary.