HomeNews EventsNewsMost GP patients wrong on antibiotic use: Study

Most GP patients wrong on antibiotic use: Study

29 Nov 2016

From left: Co-authors of the study Dr Lee Tau Hong, House Officers Magdalene Lee and Darius Pan, Dr Mark Chen and Dr Lim Fong Seng

A study conducted by NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine students in February 2015 revealed that 78% of patients who consulted their GPs were not aware that antibiotics do not work against viruses such as those which cause the common cold. More than two-thirds also mistakenly believed that antibiotics could cure coughs, sore throats and runny nose, symptoms usually caused by viruses. In addition, the study also found that a third of patients expected antibiotics to be prescribed for common ailments, and half of those would visit another doctor if not prescribed.

The findings highlight concerns of antibiotic resistance, brought about by the prevalent use and misuse of antibiotics, is one of the largest global public health threats today. "Not finishing the course of antibiotics can reduce their effectiveness and even contribute to the spread of drug-resistant bacteria in the community," says Dr Mark Chen, the study's lead author from the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health. 

More education is needed to prevent the unnecessary use of antibiotics, adds Dr Chen. "Doctors can also offer patients a deferred prescription... the doctor gets a chance to reassess the same patient to see if it is a bacterial infection that truly needs antibiotics," he said. 

Antibiotic resistance on the rise: Common infections increasingly becoming untreatable, says UN

In a follow up feature on antibiotic resistance, A/Prof Hsu Li Yang, programme leader of the School's Antimicrobial Resistance Programme highlighted the case of the superbug Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which hospitals here began looking at in the mid-2000s. The bacteria would live in the nose of patients but only one in five to one in 10 of them would end up with infections, says A/Prof Hsu. 

Singapore is in the midst of developing a national action plan to tackle antibiotic resistance, which could include educating the public on which illnesses should be treated with antibiotics, and stepping up the monitoring of their use. In hospitals, efforts include improving hand hygiene, checking patients to see if they carry any bugs and isolating them from other patients if needed.

"Antimicrobial resistance is extremely difficult to reverse.... (they) are not going to 'disappear back into the wild'. They are part of the evolutionary process and are here to stay," adds A/Prof Hsu. 

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