AS THE World Health Organisation urges the world to take more care with the use of antibiotics or risk a future in which they no longer work, studies show that France may be especially at risk.
In its first global study, the WHO said antibiotic resistance, where bacteria change so antibiotics no longer work, is now a major threat.
“Without urgent, coordinated action the world is heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill,” said the WHO’s Dr Keiji Fukuda.
The study said doctors must prescribe antibiotics only when truly needed, patients must use them only when prescribed and should complete the full prescription and governments should promote better use.
This came as a report by a government thinktank attached to the Prime Minister’s office found risky behaviours mentioned by the WHO were prevalent in France, which “compared to its neighbours is notable for a high consumption of medicines” – 22% more than average. Ninety per cent of consultations result in prescriptions, compared to only 43% in Holland.
A spokeswoman for the Cpam local health bodies said they backed the WHO’s advice. “We have campaigned on this before, saying that the use of antibiotics must not be automatic,” she said.
Poor use was also highlighted as posing health risks in the think-tank report. “The case of antibiotics is emblematic, unsuitable use favouring emergence of resistant bacteria… A common example is people stopping taking them once symptoms disappear but before they are cured.”
Two-thirds of adults were also reported to “self-medicate”, notably by using old unused medicines left in the medicine cabinet. This could be especially harmful in the case of antibiotics, the report said, noting that in the UK, where this is much less common, the exact amount of tablets needed is prescribed, an approach which France is now trialling.
An earlier 2012 study stated “poor use… kills the weakest bacteria but favours selection of the most resistant; however the key factor favouring resistance is over-use in people and animals.”
This comes as consumer body UFC-Que Choisir urged action after a study it carried out on supermarket turkey and chicken slices found resistant bacteria in 61%, with budget products more affected than premium (notably, organic) ones. Although the routine dosing of animals to favour growth is now banned in the EU the report said they were overused in “preventative treatments”. It said France was second in the EU in quantities used (although sixth per animal).