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Providers Weigh In: Safe, Appropriate Antibiotic Use Can Keep Communities Healthy

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

More than 2 million people in the United States get infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year. Overuse of antibiotics is the single most important factor contributing to antibiotic resistance around the world. The annual “Get Smart About Antibiotics Week” is being observed Nov. 14–20, 2016, to improve antibiotic stewardship in communities and healthcare facilities. 

Dr. Susan Bleasdale
Susan Bleasdale, MD
Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control

“Studies show that about 30 to 50% of the antibiotics prescribed in hospitals are unnecessary,” says Dr. Susan Bleasdale, medical director of infection prevention and control at UI Health. “Inappropriate use can often contribute to the development of allergic reactions and infections, and increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

How Antibiotic Resistance Develops

It is important to know that antibiotics treat bacterial infections and not viral infections. When an antibiotic drug is used to treat a viral infection, the drug instead starts attacking bacteria in the body. This can cause antibiotic-resistant properties in harmless bacteria that can be shared with other bacteria. When bacteria become antibiotic resistant, drugs and chemicals that can generally cure or prevent infections become less effective.  

How Antibiotic Overuse Occurs

Behavior from both patients and providers can lead to the overuse of antibiotics, contributing to antibiotic resistance:

  • Prescription of antibiotics by providers prior to completely understanding the actual cause of an infection
  • Demand for antibiotics by patients who want quick relief from symptoms of their infection
  • Self-diagnosis of an infection and inappropriate use of antibiotics leftover from a previous prescription, or of those purchased abroad.

Consequences of Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance can lead to several negative health outcomes:

  • Serious illnesses or disabilities, sometimes leading to death
  • Prolonged suffering from bacterial infections
  • Longer hospitalization and delayed recovery
  • Increased doctor visits or hospitalization
  • Expensive treatment
  • Spread of infections within the community

“At UI Health, we take special care to ensure that patients receive the right antibiotic, at the right dose, at the right time, and for the right duration,” says Dr. Alan Gross, an antimicrobial stewardship pharmacist at UI Health. “We believe that if everyone — the general public, doctors, pharmacists, hospitals, and the policy makers — works together, we can effectively reduce cases of antibiotic resistance and ultimately save lives.”

Talk to your healthcare provider about the best treatment for your or your child’s illness. For more information, visit the Division of Infectious Diseases at UI Health.