Knowledge Gaps on Antibiotic Resistance Remain Among Health Care Workers in the EU

A large percentage (96%) of health care worker respondents reported feeling confident in their knowledge of antibiotic resistance, but only 60% answered the 7 key questions correctly.

Knowledge is the first step in combatting antibiotic resistance. Previous surveys have sought to identify the general public’s awareness on the subject, but there is no real body of evidence to illustrate the knowledge and attitudes of health care workers (HCW).

In a late-breaker poster at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID 2019), investigators with Public Health England in London created a 43-question online survey with help from a project advisory group, which pilot-tested the questionnaire across Europe.

A total of 10,484 responses were collected from HCWs in 30 European Union (EU) and European Economic Area countries. Respondents worked in hospitals (54%), in the community (12%), in pharmacies (8%), in long-term care facilities (5%), in public health institutions (2%), in academic settings (2%), and in governmental organizations, industry, or professional settings (4%), and in other settings (13%).

A large percentage (96%) of questionnaire respondents reported feeling confident in their knowledge of antibiotic resistance, but only 60% answered the 7 key questions correctly.

For example, on a question about the use of antibiotics to promote growth of farm animals, only 29% of respondents knew the practice is illegal in the EU.

Eighty-eight percent of respondents acknowledged the connection between their antibiotic practices and the emergence or spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, while 57% agreed that they have a role in controlling antibiotic resistance. Medical doctors, in particular, acknowledged their role at a higher rate than any other HCW group (p<0.001).

“Less than half (42%) of respondents agreed that there was good promotion of prudent antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance prevention in their country, and only 28% believed that national campaigns were effective in reducing unnecessary antibiotic use,” investigators reported.

The survey, the first to include all of Europe, revealed that HCWs appear to have good awareness that their antibiotic practices have the potential to contribute to antibiotic resistance, but important knowledge gaps remain.

“There is also a need to empower HCWs as key players in controlling antibiotic resistance,” investigators concluded.

The study, “Healthcare workers' knowledge and attitudes about antibiotics and antibiotic resistance across 30 European Union and European Economic Area Countries,” was presented as a late-breaker poster on Saturday, April 13, 2019, at ECCMID 2019 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.