The overuse of antibiotics is becoming a major threat to long term public health, according to the Irish Pharmacy Union.

The union says health services are experiencing an increase in antibiotic resistant infections, and have said this is largely being attributed to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics.

The IPU says increased levels of resistance, coupled with the lack of new antibiotics coming on stream, means that there is a risk that we could return to the 'pre-antibiotic era' if this overuse is not addressed.

The union says this will not only cripple the ability to fight routine infections, but will also undermine the treatment of more complicated infections, especially in patients with chronic diseases, and could make many surgeries impossible.

It adds that antibiotics should only be taken when a patient requires them to treat a specific bacterial infection - and not for coughs, colds, sore throat, sinusitis, flu, vomiting or diarrhoea - where antibiotics simply do not work.

President of the IPU Daragh Connolly said: "It is essential that everyone takes responsibility for ensuring that antibiotics are only used when absolutely necessary."