In 2017, Professor Dame Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer at the time, warned that the world could face a “post-antibiotic apocalypse.” She urged that, unless action is taken to halt the practices that have allowed antibiotic resistance to spread and ways are found to develop new types of antibiotics, we could return to the days when simple wounds, infections or routine operations, are life-threatening.
We created this page in 2017 to mark World Antibiotic Awareness Week and we keep it up-to-date. Now, in 2020, the threat of antibiotic resistance – and the need for responsible antibiotic use – are as great as ever. Below, you can find summaries of Cochrane Reviews which have investigated the benefits and harms of antibiotics for a wide range of health problems. This evidence supports decision-making in the appropriate use of antibiotics.
Respiratory infections, illnesses and conditions
Deciding when to start and stop antibiotics in adults with acute respiratory infections: can testing blood procalcitonin levels help?
In children aged 2-59 months with severe pneumonia, what are the benefits and harms of a short course of intravenous antibiotics compared with a long course?
What are the benefits and harms of antibiotics for treating cough or wheeze after acute bronchiolitis in children?
In patients with bronchiectasis, how do continuous antibiotics compare with intermittent antibiotics?
Labour and birth
What are the benefits and harms of prophylactic antibiotics for women undergoing operative vaginal delivery?
What are the benefits and harms of routine antibiotic prophylaxis after normal (uncomplicated) vaginal birth?
What are the benefits and harms of routine antibiotics for women undergoing episiotomy repair after a normal (uncomplicated) vaginal birth?
What are the benefits are harms of antibiotics for irreversible pulpitis (severe tissue damage within a tooth, which causes severe tooth ache)?
What are the benefits and harms of giving antibiotics prior to admission to hospital for suspected meningococcal disease?
In women undergoing a cervical excision to reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer, what are the benefits and harms of antibiotics?
Can antibiotics given around the time of transplant surgery prevent surgical site infections in organ transplant recipients?
What are the benefits and harms of antibiotics in kidney transplant recipients who have bacterial infection in the urine but no symptoms?
Can rapid point‐of‐care tests help reduce antibiotic use in people with acute sore throat in primary care?
- Antibiotic resistance – bacteria fighting back by Samantha Gale, Cochrane UK’s Public Health Fellow.
- Apocalypse now – antimicrobial resistance by Lynda Ware, Cochrane UK’s Senior Fellow in General Practice.
- Why should I care about antibiotic resistance? by the Cochrane Trainees.
Editor’s note: page last updated November 2020.