Antibiotics are no longer routinely used to treat infections because:
- many infections are caused by viruses, so antibiotics are not effective
- antibiotics are often unlikely to speed up the healing process and can cause side effects
- the more antibiotics are used to treat trivial conditions, the more likely they are to become ineffective for treating more serious conditions
Both the NHS and health organisations across the world are trying to reduce the use of antibiotics, especially for health problems that are not serious.
For example, antibiotics are no longer routinely used to treat:
Antibiotic resistance and 'superbugs'
The overuse of antibiotics in recent years means they're becoming less effective and has led to the emergence of "superbugs". These are strains of bacteria that have developed resistance to many different types of antibiotics, including:
- MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)
- Clostridium difficile (C. diff)
- the bacteria that cause multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis
These types of infections can be serious and challenging to treat, and are becoming an increasing cause of disability and death across the world.
The biggest worry is that new strains of bacteria may emerge that cannot be treated by any existing antibiotics.
Video: antibiotics do not work for everything
This video explains why antibiotics do not work on viral infections. When it comes to antibiotics take your doctor’s advice.
Media review due: 25 January 2023
Page last reviewed: 23 May 2019
Next review due: 23 May 2022