Background Antimicrobial resistance has emerged as one of the greatest threats to population health of modern times. A review on antimicrobial resistance in 2016 by the UK government predicted that infections caused by resistant organisms could be responsible for ten million deaths annually by 2040. A key driver of resistance is inappropriate use of antibiotics within human healthcare in managing minor illnesses that would resolve spontaneously without drug treatment. This has been referred to as ‘just in case’ prescribing.
The Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, has called for a reduction in unnecessary prescribing as part of improved antimicrobial stewardship however; there is evidence that antimicrobial resistance remains overlooked by the public and by health professionals as an important health risk.
Antimicrobial stewardship is complicated by growing recognition that serious bacterial infections can initially present in the same way as mild viral illnesses. Recently, there has been a drive to improve recognition and management of sepsis, a serious consequence of untreated bacterial infection that is associated with high mortality. Simultaneously, there has been a large volume of high profile stories about sepsis in the media. This study aims to explore similarities and differences in how antimicrobial resistance and sepsis are framed in the popular print news.
Methods Quantitative analysis of the manifest content of 297 articles about sepsis and 163 articles about antimicrobial resistance published in 11 UK national newspapers on all available dates until 31 st December 2016, identified via a systematic search on the Nexis database. A coding frame was developed through a priori knowledge and close reading of 200 articles using the constant comparative method. A random sample of 10% of these articles were coded by two reviewers to ensure consistency in the application of codes. The remaining articles were coded by a single reviewer and analysed using SPSS.
Results Articles about sepsis were more likely to identify individuals who had suffered serious adverse health effects, often infants or young children, and to criticise the actions of individual health professionals. These factors have been identified as ‘media triggers’ that can increase public interest in a news story.
Conclusion Exposure to news stories about sepsis has the potential to alter public awareness and perception of risks associated with minor illness. This may impact on expectations of receiving antimicrobial treatment, with implications for antimicrobial stewardship.
Statistics from Altmetric.com
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.