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How to prevent antibiotic resistance?

We must restrict the use of antibiotics so that we can continue to treat people with serious illnesses, patients who undergo cancer treatment or major surgical procedures that involve a risk of infection. Cancer patients are especially vulnerable to infection during treatment.

Antibiotics must be reserved for patients who are seriously ill, and must be used only by patients who really need them. This will ensure that future generations also have medicines that are effective against infections.

“Think globally – influence nationally – act locally”


Alerted to this crisis, in May 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted a global action plan on antimicrobial resistance with five major objectives: WHO | Global action plan on antimicrobial resistance. This urges all countries to act now!

WHO has also updated Essential Medicines List with new advice on use of antibiotics, and adds medicines for hepatitis C, HIV, tuberculosis and cancer. The change aims to ensure that antibiotics are available when needed, and that the right antibiotics are prescribed for the right infections. It should enhance treatment outcomes, reduce the development of drug-resistant bacteria, and preserve the effectiveness of "last resort" antibiotics that are needed when all others fail.

In June 2015, the Norwegian government presented its National Strategy against Antibiotic Resistance (2015 - 2020) which indicates the need for greater knowledge and increased competence in all relevant sectors, also in Norway.


The report Tackling drug-resistant infections globally: Final report and recommendations offers advices that everyone should follow. 

  • Undertake a massive global public awareness campaign
  • Improve hygiene and prevent the spread of infection
  • Reduce unnecessary use of antimicrobials in agriculture and their dissemination into the environment
  • Improve global surveillance of drug resistance and antimicrobial consumption in humans and animals
  • Promote development and use of vaccines and alternatives
  • Improve the numbers, pay and recognition of people working in infectious disease

We must also improve global monitoring of antibiotic consumption and the development of bacterial resistance in both humans and animals.

How can the public contribute to the fight against antibiotic resistance? 

Follow this simple advice, and you will do something concrete for cancer patients, both now and in the future.

  • Antibiotics should only be used when absolutely necessary. Use an antibiotic that is only effective against the specific type of bacteria you are infected with.
  • Follow your doctor’s advice and recommendations, and complete the antibiotic treatment exactly as prescribed. Never give or share your antibiotics with others.
  • Never demand antibiotics for a sore throat, a cold or the flu. Antibiotics have no effect on these conditions.
  • The more antibiotic treatments you have, the greater the risk of developing resistant bacteria. Postpone the use of antibiotics until you really need this type of treatment.
  • It is very important to prevent infection. Ensure proper hand hygiene, especially abroad, and in contact with patients. 
  • Think about the risk of infection when travelling abroad, both as a tourist or for treatment. The risk of infection with resistant bacteria is much greater outside the Nordic countries, both in and outside healthcare institutions.
  • Antibiotic resistance can be prevented through immunization. It is important for both you and others that you follow the vaccination programmes.