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The survey results are clear: The Antibiotickaresistence.cz project has improved the knowledge of the Czech population about antibiotics and their behaviour towards them

15. 6. 2023

Antibiotics have been an essential drug in the fight against bacterial infections for the last eighty years. In particular, due to irresponsible behaviour of society, strains of bacteria that can resist antibiotic treatment are increasingly emerging. Because it is literally vital to preserve antibiotics as an effective weapon for the future, the Antibiotic Resistance Prevention Project was created. Its sponsor – the State Institute of Public Health – sought to turn society’s attention to the topic of antibiotic resistance and to teach the Czech public how to better manage antibiotics. The success of the campaign is revealed by the results of a joint survey conducted by Engage Hill and Remmark in spring 2023.

Antibiotic resistance may be the leading cause of death in a few years. According to experts, around 10 million individuals worldwide could die in 2050 from bacterial resistance. In our country, this negative phenomenon kills more people every year than car accidents.

„Resistance means the resistance of bacteria to the medicinal effects of antibiotics. It arises due to the overuse of antibiotics, especially selected broad-spectrum groups. As a result, the bacteria get used to them. The drugs stop working on them and they continue to multiply in their presence. In practice, this means that even if you take antibiotics, your health will not improve,“ explains the principle of antibiotic resistance doc. MUDr. Helena Žemličková, Ph.D., head of the National Reference Laboratory for Antibiotics at the National Institute of Health and the expert guarantor of the Antibiotic Resistance.cz project, which was launched in November 2021.

A quarter more of the population encountered information about antibiotics not working for colds

As statistics from other countries where similar campaigns have taken place show, educating the public is essential for responsible use of antibiotics. In the Czech Republic, this was confirmed by a survey conducted by Engage Hill and Remmark. It was carried out as part of the project and served as feedback to provide information on the effectiveness of the campaign. It was carried out in 2 phases: the first one before the launch of the project (07/2021) and the second one at the very end of the campaign (04/2023). It reveals the following:

„In the last 12 months, 58% of the public have encountered information about not taking antibiotics unnecessarily, e.g. for colds. This is 23% more than in 2021, which is an amazing result. The term antibiotic resistance itself was encountered by 61.5% of respondents. This is also a significant jump from 43% in 2021. We firmly believe that the theory is now also being translated into practice and that Czechs realise that antibiotics should be valued and treated with respect,“ continues the project’s expert guarantor.

The unflattering data Czechs vs. Antibiotics was corrected by the Antibiotickaresistance.cz campaign

What would Czechs‘ awareness of antibiotics and how would they treat them if the Antibiotickarezistence.cz awareness project were not running in our country?

„Before the campaign was implemented, we were unpleasantly surprised when we learned from a survey that almost 40% of respondents actively ask their doctors for antibiotics, even though their illness may be of viral origin, for example, and these drugs do not help. A full 37% mistakenly thought that antibiotic treatment would shorten the treatment of, for example, a cold. We were also struck by the fact that a third of the respondents had antibiotics in their medicine cabinet for emergencies, which is obviously a mistake, because the decision to prescribe antibiotics should be made only by a doctor on the basis of an examination,“ explains Filip Brodan from Engage Hill.

The major impact of the campaign – results of the spring 2023 survey:

– Only 5.6% of respondents said that antibiotics work against colds. Compared to 2021, this is a drop of 5%.

– 30.6% of people mentioned that antibiotic treatment will reduce the time it takes to treat a cold – 6% less than in 2021. The most significant increase in knowledge is in the group of men aged 16-24 (12%) and men aged 35 and over (8-10%).

– 74.9% of the population now know that the cause of antibiotic resistance is the misuse of antibiotics – 9% more than in 2021.

– 29.3% of consumers report having a product containing antibiotics in their medicine cabinet for emergencies – down 4% from 2021.

– 34.4% of consumers asked their doctor to prescribe antibiotics – 5% less than in 2021.

„I’m really pleased to see such significant progress in raising awareness of the dangers of antibiotic resistance and that more and more of us are realising the importance of everyone taking a responsible approach to antibiotics, the medicines that save lives. I consider it essential to continue to revive the topic and to repeat the information. I still encounter many misunderstandings and see the impact of misinformation, even personally. I am particularly sorry when people link the information campaign against antibiotic resistance to the shortage of certain drugs, which has been repeatedly addressed recently, not only in the Czech Republic. I will therefore repeat the facts. The campaign, which began more than two years ago, was certainly not, nor could it have been, motivated by the current situation on the market for medicines. It has always been, and will continue to be in the future, about very important health education, informing the public and promoting understanding of the problem of antibiotic resistance for future treatment options for many infections. I would like to thank all those who are interested in such serious topics and are willing to listen to the facts, even as a physician, for their attitude,“ said MUDr. Barbora Macková, Director of SZÚ.

Czechs trust doctors

The current research showed that 96% of respondents show trust in their doctor, just as in the survey conducted in 2021. An interesting finding is that 25% of patients make a wrong diagnosis before visiting the doctor, of whom 20% believe that antibiotics should be given. „Patients tend to make their own diagnosis, which of course is not possible without some investigations. Not even a doctor could do that. The research data reveals that there is quite a lot of room for a doctor to change a patient’s mind with the right reasoning. Fortunately, a full 96% of our population trusts their doctor,“ explains Assoc. MUDr. Helena Žemličková, Ph.D.

The campaign, commissioned by the State Institute of Health and implemented by McCann Prague, Remmark and Engage Hill, has proven to shift the perception of antibiotic resistance for the better. Confirmation that the campaign is working is the silver award in the Effie competition for the most effective advertising and the gold medal in the IMC Czech Awards.

The project also helps doctors

As we have a relatively good antibiotic policy and antibiotics are linked to a doctor’s prescription, the project also targeted doctors themselves.

„There are cases when a doctor is not quite sure whether to indicate antibiotics or not. Correct and effective prescription of antibiotics is one of the greatest skills of a doctor. Educating physicians in the proper way to administer antibiotics is an essential part of their continuing education. Therefore, we have prepared recommendations for practitioners on how to proceed in these situations. Every decision they make is very important because it fits into the puzzle that decides the future of antibiotics. Our aim is not to waste them unnecessarily and to prefer narrow-spectrum antibiotics, which not only target better but also do not support the emergence of antibiotic resistance as much,“ adds Assoc. MUDr. Helena Žemličková, Ph.D.

Doctors can find these recommendations on the website Antibiotickarezistence.cz in the section for professionals. Another tool that can help physicians compare the frequency of antibiotic transcription with recommended thresholds and aggregate reference values in their region and the whole country can be found on the KZP (Health Insurance Office) Indicators Portal puk.kzp.cz. It is intended not only for adult general practitioners and paediatricians, but also for other outpatient specialists.

The project Prevention of Antibiotic Resistance is implemented by the State Institute of Health. The project Prevention of Antibiotic Resistance (ZD-PDP2-001) was supported by a grant from the EEA Grants 2014-2021 from the Health Programme. www.eeagrants.cz