Misuse of antibiotics increases resistance to bacteria

Antibiotic resistance occurs when an antibiotic has lost its ability to effectively control or kill bacterial growth. This can occur when an individual takes antibiotics too often or improperly. Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest health problems in the world, including Europe. 

misuse of antibiotics and bacteria resistanceIn 2013, consumption of antibiotics outside European Union hospitals was 22.4 doses per 1,000 individuals, rising steadily since 2009.  In Italy, consumption of antibiotics was seen to rise to 28.6 doses, increasing slightly since 2012 and every year more than the
EU average. The country where antibiotic consumption is lowest is the Netherlands, whereas Greece is one of the countries in which the use of antibiotics is most popular.

In order to raise public awareness on this matter and promote a more responsible use of antibiotics, the European Centre for Prevention and Disease Control (ECDC), had organized a European Day of Antibiotics

How do bacteria become resistant to antibiotics?

“Bacteria become resistant mainly in two ways: by genetic mutation and by acquiring resistance from another bacterium.” Mutations are rare spontaneous changes in a bacteria’s genetic material. Some enable the bacteria to product potent chemicals that inactivate antibiotic, while others eliminate the cell target that the antibiotic attacks. Bacteria can also acquire antibiotic resistance genes from other bacteria in several ways (viruses, conjugation). “In some cases, improper use of antibiotics is associated with the ability of bacteria to collect multiple resistance traits over time, in turn becoming resistant to a wide range of antibiotics.”

Why is antibiotic resistance an issue?

Dr Paola Morelli Humanitas“Currently in hospitals, there are infections caused by multidrug-resistant germs or virtually resistant to almost all potentially active antibiotics. In such cases, it is clear that controlling the infectious process will be very difficult” replies Dr. Paola Morelli, Infection Disease Physician at Humanitas Hospital.

When is antibiotic therapy considered to be used improperly?

“In cases where its use is considered unnecessary” according to the ECDC. “Patients sometimes take antibiotics to treat viral illnesses such as the common cold or flu against which antibiotics are considered unnecessary or pointless.  Other cases involve misuse of antibiotics following a doctor’s orders. An individual may choose to dismiss a doctor’s orders and proceed to shorten their treatment by overusing and abusing the dose prescribed” concludes ECDC.

How can antibiotics be used in a safe and proper manner?

Antibiotics should be used only in cases where their use is considered essential. Ideally, they should be used for the treatment of infection as part of an empirical therapy or definitive therapy. Moreover, they should be used for a limited period of time.”


Humanitas is a highly specialized Hospital, Research and Teaching Center. Built around centers for the prevention and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular, neurological and orthopedic disease – together with an Ophthalmic Center and a Fertility Center – Humanitas also operates a highly specialised Emergency Department.