Serious superbugs and school lessons mark World Antimicrobial Awareness Week in Leeds

Leeds school children teamed up with a serious superbug this week, during a special lesson to mark World Antibiotics Awareness Week (18-24 November).

The week aims to increase awareness of antibiotic resistance as a global problem, and to promote best practice among the general public, health workers and policy-makers to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance.

According to the World Health Organisation, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the biggest threats to global health. Drug-resistant infections killed 1.25 million people in the world in 2019, including 141,000 patients in high income countries like the UK. This is estimated to rise to 10 million deaths per year by 2050 if we don’t act now.

Antibiotics kill bacteria or prevent them from spreading, but because bacteria are adapting to survive them, these medicines are becoming less effective. If antibiotics stop working to treat infections, this might stop us from carrying out common healthcare activities such as doing major operations or giving cancer treatments where infections are common, and we need effective antibiotics to prevent them. We may see more premature babies, children and adults on intensive care dying from infections.

To help tackle this problem locally, healthcare professionals across the city are supporting Seriously Resistant (www.seriouslyresistant.com), a campaign that aims to raise awareness of antibiotic resistance and encourage Leeds residents to get involved by pledging to keep antibiotics working.

The issue is also being tackled through Leeds City Council’s Health and Wellbeing Service, Support and Prevention Team. The team have created an interactive session for primary schools called ‘promoting good health’ that links to the city’s Seriously Resistant campaign. As part of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, Seriously mascot, Doug the Bug, attended one of the sessions at St Philip’s Catholic Primary & Nursery School in Middleton.

Dr Gaye Sheerman-Chase, Principal Medical Adviser for Medicines Optimisation at NHS West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board (Leeds), said: “It’s nearly 100 years since the first antibiotic, penicillin, was discovered. Since then we have seen a number of new antibiotics developed to fight infections or antibiotic resistant bacteria. However, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to respond quickly enough to drug-resistant bugs, so we need to act now.

“One thing we can all do is not take antibiotics unless they’re absolutely necessary. For example, colds, flu and most coughs are viral infections, and antibiotics can’t treat those. All you need is plenty of rest and a visit to your local pharmacy for remedies which you can buy over the counter.

“Antibiotics should only be used when we really need them. Listen to your GP, pharmacist or nurse’s advice and only take antibiotics when necessary. If you are given antibiotics, it’s important that you take them as prescribed and never save them for future use or share them with others.

“Another important factor is preventing infections in the first place – something we should all be familiar with now – by regularly washing hands, preparing food hygienically, avoiding close contact with sick people, practising safer sex, and keeping vaccinations up to date.”

Councillor Salma Arif, Executive Member for Public Health and Active Lifestyles at Leeds City Council, said: “We share an ambition for Leeds to be the UK city that makes the biggest impact on antibiotic resistance.

“We’re working with healthcare professionals across the city to reduce our use of antibiotics, but we also need the support of all who live and work here to achieve our goal.

“I’d urge everyone to visit the Seriously website – www.seriouslyresistant.com –  to find out what you, your family and friends can do to help tackle antibiotic resistance and to help keep antibiotics working.”

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