World Antibiotic Awareness Week (November 14 – 20, 2016)


16 Nov 2016

Eighty-eight years ago in London, England, the era of antibiotics began with Sir Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin.

The modern miracle of antibiotics brought about significant improvements to the medical system and saved millions of lives. Today, we rely heavily on these drugs to treat deadly infections, make surgical procedures possible, and reduce infections due to chemotherapy. 

In 2016, with the increasing prevalence of bacteria that are resistant to all modern antibiotics, we see signs that the antibiotic era may be coming to an end, gradually shifting society back into the dark ages of medicine. In fact, a recent report commissioned by the UK government estimated that by the year 2050, global deaths due to antibiotic resistant infections will surpass deaths due to cancer. 

However, the outcome is not necessarily doom and gloom. At Public Health Ontario, we work to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics through infection prevention and control, surveillance of antibiotic resistant infections, and antibiotic stewardship. Antibiotic stewardship, simply defined as “using antibiotics wisely”, is something we all can do to reduce the harmful effects of antibiotics and slow the emergence of antibiotic resistance. 

During Antibiotic Awareness Week, all over the world we encourage others to pledge to be stewards of this precious shared resource.

Here are 3 ways that everyone can be an antibiotic steward

  1. Recognize that antibiotics do not work against viruses. Infections like sore throat (except strep throat) and bronchitis are usually caused by viruses. So antibiotics won’t make you feel any better and in fact can make you feel worse as they can cause side effects such as diarrhea, or can trigger an allergic reaction. Influenza is a nasty virus that can make you very sick and is not killed by antibiotics. Regular hand washing and getting the flu shot are important ways to help prevent you from getting infected this season.
  2. Do not share antibiotics or use leftover antibiotics.
  3. Know that the less antibiotics we use, the less resistance we will see. For many infections such as urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and skin infections, we now know that shorter courses are just as effective as longer courses but cause less side effects and less resistance. Talk with your doctor about whether a shorter course of antibiotics might be better for you. 

To find out more about antibiotic resistance and how you can help use antibiotics wisely, check out Do Bugs Need Drugs website. For antimicrobial stewardship practitioners, visit our ASP page at for tools on developing a program.

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Updated 16 Nov 2016