Do bugs need drugs?

  • Feb. 28, 2011 8:00 p.m.

 Antibiotic resistance is increasingly recognized as a global public health issue, which has the potential to hamper the control of many infectious diseases. To help combat this problem, the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, runs an annual media campaign through its Do Bugs Need Drugs? program to help increase public knowledge and awareness regarding the use of antibiotic drugs.

The campaign highlights the program’s three simple messages:

1. Wash your hands! Hand washing is the best way to stop the spread of infections.

2. Not all bugs are created equal. Antibiotics work against bacteria, but not against viruses.

3. Use antibiotics wisely! Bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics.

“Antibiotics are a critical tool in combating life-threatening bacterial infections,” says Dr. David Patrick, BCCDC Director of Epidemiology Services. “Unfortunately, misuse of antibiotics is widespread and contributes to resistance. We have to better promote appropriate use of antibiotics to preserve these life-saving tools.”

 Antibiotic resistance is the ability of micro-organisms to find ways to evade the action of the drugs used to cure the infections they cause. It is often caused by the combination of genetic change in bacteria and selection of resistant strains use of drugs.  

“Some antibiotic use is essential. But we know that one out of every two or three antibiotic prescriptions is unnecessary. For example, antibiotics pose no benefit for a viral illness. The more this occurs, the more likely that the antibiotics will not be effective when we really need them,” explains Dr. Patrick. 

Over the past five years, physicians in B.C. have contributed to a reduction of antibiotic prescriptions, but there is still a long way to go to fully optimize use and thwart resistance. “The World Health Organization has stated that antibiotic resistance is a global issue, which requires immediate action. That’s why public and healthcare professional education on this issue is essential,” says Dr. Patrick.

 The Do Bugs Need Drugs? program is a community education program focused on hand washing and the responsible use of antibiotics. 

The program is being implemented in British Columbia and Alberta, with components used elsewhere in Canada, the United States, and abroad. The program includes: an interactive educational component available for preschool, grade two children, and older adults in the province; educational training and resources for healthcare professionals; and a public education campaign that incorporates teaching the three key messages to children, their parents, and the general public.

For more information on Do Bugs Need Drugs?, visit or