Get wise about an­tibi­otic use, says mum

Nelson Mail - - Front Page - Sa­man­tha Gee sa­man­

Mum of three and mi­cro­bi­ol­o­gist Juliet Elvy un­der­stands how an­tibi­otics are a pre­cious re­source, and she can see first-hand how re­sis­tance de­vel­ops in bac­te­ria grown in the lab­o­ra­tory.

As Nel­son Marl­bor­ough Health’s clin­i­cal pathol­o­gist, Elvy said that while New Zea­land was lucky not to have wide­spread re­sis­tance to an­tibi­otics, it was im­por­tant for peo­ple not to be com­pla­cent.

In Oc­to­ber, a fam­ily of bac­te­ria re­sis­tant to nearly all an­tibi­otics, car­bapenem-pro­duc­ing en­ter­obac­te­ri­aceae (CPE), was found in five peo­ple liv­ing in the Welling­ton re­gion.

‘‘An­tibi­otics are not a harm­less drug, and they should only be used when they are re­ally needed,’’ Elvy said.

An­tibi­otics could not be used to treat vi­ral in­fec­tions like colds and flu, she said.

As a mum, Elvy said, she felt pas­sion­ate about not treat­ing kids with an­tibi­otics un­nec­es­sar­ily. Ail­ments like ear in­fec­tions and sore throats would clear up on their own with­out the use of an an­tibi­otic.

‘‘A small pro­por­tion will be bac­te­rial, and there will still be some kids who need an­tibi­otics, and it is re­ally im­por­tant and po­ten­tially life­sav­ing to get those an­tibi­otics when you need them.’’

Re­cent re­search from the Univer­sity of Auck­land found that the level of an­tibi­otic con­sump­tion by New Zealan­ders was high com­pared with other coun­tries. The re­port said the amount of an­tibi­otics used per head of pop­u­la­tion here was about three times what it was in Nor­way or Den­mark.

Elvy said the rea­sons be­hind our high rate of an­tibi­otic us­age were com­plex and not yet fully un­der­stood.

It was pos­si­ble that GPs felt pres­sure to pre­scribe an­tibi­otics when they didn’t need to, par­tic­u­larly for vi­ral in­fec­tions, she said.

‘‘There are other things peo­ple can do to make them­selves feel bet­ter – tak­ing rest and flu­ids and sim­ple painkillers rather than feel­ing like they should be tak­ing an an­tibi­otic.’’

GPs should talk to their pa­tients about why they would not pre­scribe an an­tibi­otic and what else they could do to keep them­selves healthy, she said.

Elvy said there was also in­creas­ing ev­i­dence about the long-term ef­fects of an­tibi­otic us­age, es­pe­cially in young chil­dren.

‘‘There is quite a lot of ev­i­dence that shows if you are ex­posed to too many an­tibi­otics early in life you have an in­creased risk of things like di­a­betes and obe­sity.’’

An­tibi­otic Aware­ness Week, held from No­vem­ber 12-18, is a World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion ini­tia­tive to in­crease global aware­ness of an­tibi­otic re­sis­tance.


Nel­son Marl­bor­ough Health clin­i­cal pathol­o­gist Juliet Elvy is an an­tibi­otic ex­pert and mother of, from left, Noah, 7, Poppy, 3, and Flor­rie, 9. She avoids giv­ing her kids an­tibi­otics un­less they are re­ally needed.

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