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EU Antibiotic Awareness Day: how can integrative medicine be part of a global solution?

17 Nov 2016

European Antibiotic Awareness Day is organised on 18 November by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, as part of the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s antibiotic awareness week (14-20 November).

It will be marked with a number of initiatives across Europe, including a 24-hour gloabl Twitter conversation (post at #Antibiotic Resistance) and a live event on web stream (#EAAD2016 for comments and questions). The aim is to raise awareness about the threat to public health of antibiotic resistance and the importance of prudent antibiotic use. The latest data confirm that the number of patients infected by resistant bacteria across the EU is increasing; existing antibiotics are losing their effectiveness and our ability to treat common infectious diseases is being threatened. The United Nations has recently added its voice to that of WHO and the European Commission in declaring antimicrobial resistance one of the biggest threats to global health.

The policy documents of the UN, WHO and European Commission all emphasise the need for alternative approaches and products to be evaluated and researched to assist in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. Doctors and health professionals who endorse an integrative therapeutic approach that includes well established practices from complementary and alternative medicine (integrative medicine), seek to make contributions in three ways:

  • by finding ways of using fewer antibiotics
  • by appropriate use of antibiotics
  • by recommending alternative medication leaving antibiotic therapy as a fall back option (delayed prescription) in well-diagnosed cases.

One example where homeopathy could have a role to play is for minor infectious conditions such as upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs).  Research shows that homeopathic medicines can have a preventative effect against URTIs and GPs can effectively treat URTIs when they occur. Both approaches have been shown to result in a reduction of antibiotic prescribing in primary care practice (Source: ECCH).

EUROCAM, the network to promote the contribution of CAM, published a report in November 2015 on ‘The role of CAM in reducing the problem of antimicrobial resistance,’ which addresses the role both homeopathy and anthroposophic medicine can play in this field. A recent statement from EUROCAM reports on recognition by the European Commission of the need to develop alternatives to antimicrobials for treating infection and calls for further focused research in the role CAM approaches can play in reducing antibiotic use.

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