Cyprus tops the list of EU countries taking antibiotics, with one in two people taking them yearly, the head of the Cyprus Pathology Company Andreas Stylianou said on Wednesday.

Stylianou said that a significant percentage of the infections that occur both in patients treated in hospitals and outside hospital are caused by microbes resistant to antibiotics.

A significant percentage of the public, he told a press conference as part of a campaign on the correct use of antibiotics, buy antibiotics from the pharmacy without a medical prescription.

He said that 30 per cent of people keep antibiotics at home for emergencies and self-medicate without a doctor’s advice, while 80 per cent mistakenly believe that antibiotics are effective against viruses.

“The resistance of microbes to antibiotics is constantly increasing, with the result that many infections are caused by microbes resistant to all antibiotics. According to predictions by expert scientists, if the problem is not addressed immediately, by 2050 10,000,000 people will die every year around the world from infections caused by multi-resistant microbes,” he said.

Stylianou pointed out that antibiotics should not be taken for infections caused by viruses, such as the flu, the common cold, and most sore throats and gastroenteritis problems.

“The incorrect and reckless use of antibiotics results in the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant microbes that replace the sensitive microbes that live in our normal flora, i.e. in the mouth, pharynx, nose, intestinal tract, vagina, urethra and skin,” he said.

He pointed out that infections from resistant microbes can cause serious complications and even death, while prolonging hospital stays, increasing the cost of hospitalisation.

For Cyprus, he continued, the problem is even more serious because both Cyprus and Greece at the European level have the highest consumption of antibiotics among the public, and resistance of microbes to antibiotics.

“In the winter months, more than 90 per cent of upper respiratory infections in adults and children are caused by viruses (e.g. common cold, pharyngitis) and the use of antibiotics to treat them is unnecessary and dangerous. The same applies to gastroenteritis, especially in the summer, where most of them are also caused by viruses.”

The best way to deal with viruses such as colds, coughs and sore throats is to rest, drink plenty of fluids and use antipyretics, pain relievers and decongestants carefully, he added.