17/11/2015 11:48 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Myth Busted: Antibiotics Do Not Cure Colds And Flu

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NEW DELHI -- Around 75 per cent of Indians who took part in a WHO survey think, incorrectly, that colds and flu can be treated with antibiotics, the UN agency said as it sought to highlight the issue of widespread misunderstanding about antibiotic resistance.

Sharing the findings of a multi-country survey, WHO said that misunderstanding about antibiotic resistance poses a threat to public health while many also do not understand how to prevent it from growing.

The survey, conducted in 12 countries and released in Geneva today, also said that in India, only 58 per cent of the respondents knew that they should stop taking antibiotics only when they finish the course as directed.

"More than three quarters (76 pc) of respondents report having taken antibiotics within the past six months. 90 per cent say they were prescribed or provided (antibiotics) by a doctor or nurse.

"Three-quarters (75 pc) of respondents think, incorrectly, that colds and flu can be treated with antibiotics, and only 58 per cent know that they should stop taking antibiotics only when they finish the course as directed," a WHO statement said.

Elaborating about the respondents in India, it said that while 75 per cent agreed that antibiotic resistance was one of the biggest problems in the world, 72 per cent believed that experts will solve the problem before it becomes too serious.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change and become resistant to the antibiotics used for treating the infections they cause. Over-use and misuse of antibiotics increases the development of resistant bacteria.

"As the WHO ramps up its fight against antibiotic resistance, a new multi-country survey shows people are confused about this major threat to public health and do not understand how to prevent it from growing," the statement said.

As per the survey, almost two-thirds (64 pc) of some 10,000 people covered across 12 countries said they know that antibiotic resistance is an issue that could affect them and their families, but how it affects them and what they can do to address it are not well understood.

It said 64 per cent of respondents believed that antibiotics can be used to treat colds and flu, although the fact is that antibiotics have no impact on viruses.

Close to one-third (32 pc) of people surveyed believe they should stop taking antibiotics when they feel better, rather than completing the prescribed course of treatment.

"The rise of antibiotic resistance is a global health crisis, and governments now recognise it as one of the greatest challenges for public health today. It is reaching dangerously high levels in all parts of the world," Margaret Chan, the WHO Director-General, said after releasing the findings of the survey today.

The survey coincided with the launch of a new WHO campaign 'Antibiotics: Handle with care', a global initiative to improve understanding of the problem and change the way that antibiotics are used.

The multi-country survey included 14 questions on the use of antibiotics, knowledge of antibiotics and of antibiotic resistance and used a mix of online and face-to-face interviews.

It was conducted in Barbados, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, the Russian federation, Serbia, South Africa, Sudan and Vietnam.

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