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Vaccines to help prevent antibiotic resistance?


Antibiotic resistance is a growing global problem. A UK-based expert group investigating the problem has suggested that vaccination is one way to prevent antibiotic resistance.

Increasing vaccination coverage and promoting the creation of new vaccines can both reduce the use of antibiotics and slow down the spread of resistant bacteria. In an interview in Lääkärilehti magazine (19/2016), Research Manager Arto Palmu from the National Institute for Health and Welfare highlights the pneumococcus vaccine among existing vaccines.

The FinIP vaccine study conducted in Finland in 2009–2012 found that children who had received the pneumococcus vaccination were prescribed 8% fewer antibiotics for respiratory infections than unvaccinated children. The outcome of the study is explained by the fact that pneumococcus vaccines are designed to protect against resistant strains of bacteria in particular. Antibiotic use is also reduced when the prevalence of common respiratory infections, such as otitis media, is decreased due to vaccinations.

Palmu says the rotavirus vaccine can also help in the fight against antibiotic resistance in Africa because the prevalence of bacterial diarrhoea is higher there than in the West and antibiotics are available without a prescription.

The most important new vaccines with respect to the problem of antibiotic resistance would be vaccines against hospital bacteria (Clostridium difficile, staphylococci) and vaccines against respiratory infections, including those of viral origin. Respiratory infections are often treated with antibiotics even though many of them are viral, which means that antibiotic drugs are not particularly useful against them.