The overuse of antibiotics significantly impairs their effectiveness and increases resistance to antimicrobial substances that may be responsible for millions of deaths worldwide by 2050, warns the European agency of the World Health Organization.

“If AMR, the resistance to antimicrobial substances (to which antibiotics belong), is a natural phenomenon, the growth and spread of superbugs is enhanced by the abusive use of antimicrobial substances, making the effective treatment of infections more difficult”, says a statement issued today by WHO-Europe , which covers 53 countries and whose radius of responsibility reaches as far as central Asia.

“All the countries in our region have established rules aimed at protecting valuable antibiotics from abuse (…). The implementation of these rules would allow solving most of the problems arising from the misuse of antibiotics”, emphasizes Rob Butler, in charge of the department of Communicable Diseases.

The UN agency estimates that, if there is no immediate intervention, AMR could cause up to 10 million deaths by 2050.

A major source of concern for health authorities, the bad prescription.

A study carried out in 14 countries of the region, located in eastern Europe and central Asia, shows that the reasons given to justify taking antibiotics withit is in 24% of cases the common cold accompanied by flu symptoms (16%), sore throat (21%) and cough (18%).

“This situation is alarming, because these symptoms are often caused by viruses for the treatment of which antibiotics are needed they have no effectiveness”it is pointed out in the announcement.

Even worse, according to the study, are Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan, one-third of people surveyed consume antibiotics without a prescription.

In some countries, more than 40% of antibiotics are bought without a prescription, a rate five times higher than that found in European Union countries according to a 2022 study.

According to the WHO, another risk that comes from antibiotic resistance is the increase in inequalities, because people with lower education and living standards are the ones who apply these practices more, which “clearly shows the need for education and awareness” .

The development of antibiotic resistance may also be due to “acquired social and cultural habits, such as the fact that there are people who do not complete antibiotic treatment in order to stock up for the next time they get sick” or “who share antibiotics with a sick relative or neighbor’.