Residents at nursing homes prescribed far more antibiotics than the European average
Nursing home residents in Ireland are prescribed far more antibiotics than most of their European counterparts, a new report has revealed.
Around one in 10 nursing home residents in this country is on an antibiotic compared with Germany, where rates are as low as just 1.3pc and a European average of 4.9pc. Antibiotics are most commonly prescribed for infections of the urinary tract, respiratory tract, skin or soft tissue.
More than a third (39pc) of antibiotics are prescribed for prevention, mainly to reduce recurrent urinary tract infections.
The findings have emerged in an EU survey of long-stay facilities carried out by the HALT study group and published in the journal 'Surveillance'.
The report said despite the fact that less intensive medical care is provided in nursing homes than in hospitals, healthcare-associated infections are common in the vulnerable residents. For this reason, antibiotics are commonly prescribed in nursing homes, contributing to the development of antibiotic resistance. It also raises the risk of residents getting the superbug clostridium difficile.
"As there is increasing evidence that long-stay facilities can serve as a reservoir for the transmission of resistant organisms to other healthcare settings, close monitoring of the situation is needed," said the report.
The lack of diagnostic facilities on site also means that residents are wrongly prescribed antibiotics or the incorrect form of drug.
The advice is to only prescribe an antibiotic when there is likely to be a clear clinical benefit.
Prof Martin Cormican, consultant microbiologist and HSE national lead for antimicrobial resistance, said: "When properly used, antibiotics have been wonder drugs. In the last century they were called 'magic bullets'. When we prescribe antibiotics we need to use them carefully to protect people who do not need them from side effects and from antibiotic resistance."