The discovery of penicillin and sulfonamide antibiotics in the 1930s and 1940s led to significant advances in the treatment of surgical wounds and infections in health care. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the enormous value that antibiotics confer to individuals with harmful infections. Despite the obvious strides made with antibiotics, a downside with antibiotic in the last 20-30 years erupted with antibiotic drug resistance.
Antibiotic drug resistance refers to the phenomena of an antibiotic that normally kills an infectious organism as no longer able to do so, because the organism adapts to the antibiotic drug rendering the drug ineffective. According to The Scripps Research Institute , tuberculosis, gonorrhea, malaria and childhood ear infections represent some of the common diseases resistance to antibiotics.
A Public Health Problem
Antibiotic resistant bacteria represent an escalating public health problem around the world. A Reuters News Release in May 2010 describes a financial burden of $1.87 billion to treat infections in the U.S. for just six drug resistant microorganisms. The publication, Scientific America , reports on the soaring use and misuse of antibiotics. The antibiotic treatment in humans in the U.S. shows only about half of the antibiotics prescribed reveal an actual treatment of bacterial infections.
Nature of the Problem
According to “Lancet” in 2009, industrial countries prescribe the majority of antibiotics in the outpatient setting for upper respiratory infections or colds. A significant proportion of these antibiotic prescriptions for these conditions are unnecessary. The research demonstrates that the healthcare provider prescribes antibiotics when patients expect to receive these medications and not according to the assessment of the illness in the patient. This situation creates an indiscriminate overuse of antibiotics that contributes to the problem of antibiotic resistance.
Interventions to Address the Problem of Antibiotic Overuse
According to “Medscape Infectious Diseases” in November 2010, a multifaceted approach works well when directing information at both the healthcare providers and the consumer to decrease the inappropriate use of antibiotics. The CDC’s Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work program provides educational sheets directed to parents and adults about the appropriate use of antibiotics for different conditions. Not all infections can or need treatment with antibiotics. A discussion with a healthcare provider about the proper situations to use antibiotics provides a suitable tactic to prevent antibiotic overuse and drug resistance. The public can help to be part of the solution to prevent drug resistance and not be part of the problem by insisting on antibiotics.
“Lancet”; Characteristics and Outcomes of Public Campaigns Aimed at Improving the Use of Antibiotics in Outpatients in High-Income Countries; B. Huttner, et al.; 2010
“Medscape Infectious Diseases”; Conquering Antibiotic Overuse; L.A. Stokowski, RN, MS; November 2010