Antibiotics are one of the most important discoveries of modern medicine, saving millions of lives by treating infections caused by bacteria.
A Public Health ConcernAlthough antibiotics kill most bacteria, some will survive. The bacteria that survive have developed resistance. Antibiotic resistance occurs when the bacteria cannot be killed by an antibiotic.
Using antibiotics when they are not needed can lead to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics will not kill resistant bacteria and, even worse, resistance can be transferred from one bacterium to another. Antibiotics are specific and are only effective against bacterial infections.
It is important to remember that it is the bacteria that are resistant, not the individual. Even very healthy people who have never taken an antibiotic can become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. That is why antibiotic resistance is a public health issue: the public needs to use antibiotics wisely so that individuals are not adversely affected.
With the exception of pneumonia, most respiratory tract infections resolve on their own, without antibiotics. Infections that are due to viruses include colds, influenza (the "flu"), croup, laryngitis, bronchitis, bronchiolitis, most sore throats as well as some ear and sinus infections. Viruses do not need antibiotics. Although ear and sinus infections are often bacterial in etiology, they are almost always preceded by viral infections and usually resolve without antibiotics. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends watchful waiting as the preferred treatment for ear infections in children over the age of 6 months to see if the infection will go away on its own.
The best thing that you can do to stop the spread of infection is to wash your hands.
Do Bugs Need Drugs? Program and Surveillance Strategies
BCCDC and partners work in a variety of ways to understand and address the problem of antibiotic resistance.
- The Do Bugs Need Drugs? program teaches the wise use of antibiotics to the public and to healthcare professionals.
- We monitor and publish BC trends in antibiotic consumption and antibiotic resistance in humans. More information, and the reports, can be found on the Surveillance page.