What would happen if we tried to clean our teeth with a hairbrush? The image in a new campaign launched by Spain's Ministry of Health could not be clearer. The aim of the campaign is to make people aware of what can happen when they use a product incorrectly. And the message it wants to get across? That the said product is not just failing to fulfil its function, but is actually of no use whatsoever.
This, warns the Ministry, is exactly what is happening with antiobiotics: "They can't be used to treat everything" is the slogan being used in this initiative, which coincides with European Antiobiotics Awareness Week.
The statistics are worrying. According to the latest report issued by the European Commission about people's knowledge of antibiotics, 36 per cent of those surveyed mistakenly believe that they can cure a cold and 42 per cent admit that they have taken them in the past 12 months. None of them were aware of the risks that incorrect use of antibiotics can bring.
Experts say that self-medication with antibiotics in cases of viral infections, such as common flu, can increase resistance and compromise the therapeutical effect of these medicines in future treatments.
The doctors point out that, contrary to many patients' beliefs, antibiotics only treat bacterial infections. They do not relieve pain or high temperature and should only be used under medical prescription.
It is also important to beware of not taking antibiotics properly: "It is particularly dangerous to not finish a course of antiobiotics, because the micro-organism will not be completely eliminated and it will know its enemy in such a way that it learns how to fight against it," explain specialists.
The Ministry of Health wants this message to reach the whole population, so until 24 November it is broadcasting an advertisement on national and regional television. It is being shown 1,085 times in all, at a cost of 590,000 euros. One of the objectives of the campaign is to reduce the number of deaths through hospital infections caused by the aforementioned 'resistant bacteria'.
As the director general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom, warned recently, one of the greatest challenges facing humanity in terms of health is this resistance to antiobiotics, which occurs when the bacteria develop the ability to survive exposure to medications designed to kill them or stop them increasing.
It is calculated that 33,000 people in Europe die from this cause every year, 3,000 of them in Spain. That is why it is so important for measures to be put into effect and, especially, for people to be educated about the correct use of antibiotics.