• Question: is it possible to cause a greater problem if you use an antibiotic when not needed

    Asked by vickstar to Rosie, on 20 Jun 2017.
    • Photo:

      answered on 20 Jun 2017:


      Yes indeed it is. If people are given antibiotics they don’t need, the increased antibiotic levels cause evolution favouring antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Then if someone gets infected with a resistant strain, it will be much harder for them to get cured. We all need to work together. Patients need not to demand treatment when it is not needed. Doctors need to prescribe wisely and farmers should use fewer antibiotics in farm animals. A happy partnership!

    • Photo: Rosie Fok

      Rosie Fok answered on 20 Jun 2017:


      This is almost always the case.

      A big part of my job is trying to get this message across. Taking antibiotics is definitely not risk-free. They are a good thing when you need them, but don’t take them when you don’t.

      Antibiotic resistance is one reason why this is the case, but there are others. For example, if a course of antibiotics kills off the “friendly bacteria” in your gut, you are much more likely to get an infection called C. difficile. This causes diarrhoea, and can sometimes be so bad that people need to have their large bowel removed, or even die.

      Antibiotics also have side effects. They can cause an itchy rash or they can given you liver or kidney damage.

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