Meningitis Now staff member Andy Hopkinson

Treating meningitis without antibiotics - like a boat without a paddle

Andy Hopkinson | 2nd March 2022

We’ve joined forces with the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) to support their #TogetherForAntibiotics campaign, to fight back against antibiotic resistance

ABPI and Meningitis Now partner up for campaign against antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance is when your bacterial infection does not respond to treatment from antibiotics.

Without antibiotics, treatments for many illnesses, including bacterial meningitis, would not be possible. Almost all patients rely on having antibiotics should they need them. Early treatment saves lives and improves outcomes. 

The #TogetherForAntibiotics campaign calls on pharmaceutical companies and governments to prioritise the search for new antibiotics and to protect the ones we have already. 

Infections continue to rise

It also highlights the role everyone can play, as drug resistant infections continue to rise – around 50,000 people across the world die from infections which are resistant to antibiotics every year.

These so called ‘superbugs’ are evolving all the time. If new ways to stop them aren’t found that number is estimated to rise to 10 million people a year in just 30 years from now.

If you suffer food poisoning, get a serious cut, or a bacterial infection your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to weaken and kill the microbes causing the symptoms.

These microbes have evolved over tens of millions of years to be effective at infecting humans. They developed different ways to evade the body’s immune system, such as releasing proteins to disrupt your white blood cells or camouflaging themselves to avoid detection.

Constant battle

In that constant battle to get better and better and overcome the evolutionary defences that humans developed, microbes didn’t count on Alexander Fleming inventing penicillin in 1928. Humans had a new weapon to treat infections; and then another as scientists built on that work to invent new antibiotics.

Using antibiotics inappropriately though, like taking them for a viral infection or not completing the full course to totally eradicate the infection, give microbes opportunities to try out the new defences they’ve taught themselves. The more we misuse antibiotics, the better microbes get at resisting them.

And so, the more we use our last lines of defence – the strongest antibiotics in our arsenal – the more opportunity we are presenting to microbes to outwit us.

Continually evolving

With microbes continually evolving, we will always need new antibiotics. The challenge comes because drug-resistant bacteria – antibiotic-resistant microbes – are developing faster than new antibiotics can reach the market.

The campaign reinforces that working in partnership is the only way to tackle the drug resistant infections which could overwhelm our heath service. No one person, company, research organisation or government is going to solve this issue alone.

That’s why being #TogetherForAntibiotics is so important.

ABPI and Meningitis Now partner up for campaign against antibiotic resistance

What can I do?

According to the World Health Organisation there are lots of things that individuals can do to help tackle antibiotic resistance, including:

  • Only using antibiotics when prescribed by a certified health professional, such as your doctor.
  • Never demanding antibiotics if your doctor says you don’t need them. Antibiotics won’t treat viral infections, such as viral meningitis, for example.
  • Always following the doctor’s advice when using antibiotics and completing the full course you’re prescribed.
  • Never sharing or using leftover antibiotics, such as those which are out of date.
  • Trying to prevent infections in the first place, for example by regularly washing your hands, preparing food hygienically, avoiding close contact with sick people, practising safer sex, and keeping vaccinations up to date.
  • You can also help to raise awareness of this issue, whether through social media, with your friends and family or raise it with your MP.

Find out more about the campaign at https://www.abpi.org.uk/together-for-antibiotics/.