Use of antibiotics without prescription has, over a period of 10 years dropped to 4% from 19%, Health Minister Joseph Cassar said this morning.

Nonetheless, efforts were continuing to reduce that figure further.

Speaking at a press conference to mark European Antibiotics Awareness Day, he underlined the danger of wrong use of antibiotics. Such wrong use, he said, not only weakened patients' resistance to disease but, consequently, those patients then were more likely to spread disease to others.

The problem, he said, was that many people used  antibiotics against viruses when they should be used against bacteria. Antibiotics should not be used against colds, flu and sore throats. "It is like using petrol on a diesel-engined car," the minister said.

Dr Cassar noted that the incidence of MRSA in Maltese hospitals had declined but it was spreading in society. Further action, such as better use of antibiotics needed to be taken against it.

He said patients should not be disappointed when doctors did not prescribe them antibiotics. At the same time, doctors needed to increasingly resist pressure to prescribe antibiotics and should not prescribe wide spectrum antibiotics. They should  follow the guidelines found on

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