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Providers Weigh In: Proper Diagnosis, Drug, and Treatment Duration is Key to Preventing Antibiotic Resistance

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

For decades, antibiotics have been used to help treat bacterial infections. However, unnecessary or inappropriate use of antibiotics can contribute to global antibiotic resistance.

However, if we are not careful how often we use antibiotics, bacteria can be resistant to these life-saving treatments.

Dr. Susan Bleasdale
Dr. Susan C. Bleasdale
Division of Infectious Diseases

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2 million people become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year, and many people can die from the complications of infections that are resistant to antibiotics. The best way to combat this is through improved antibiotic use — an effort that requires cooperation among doctors, pharmacists, nurses, hospital administrators, and policy makers.

"We as providers need to make sure we are using antibiotics correctly to help prevent more resistant bacteria," says Dr. Susan Bleasdale, medical director of Infection Control at UI Health and co-chair of the UI Health Antibiotic Stewardship Team. "We need to make sure we have the right diagnosis to determine if patients need antibiotics; select the right drug that is most specific for the type of infection; and give it for the right duration — the shortest necessary is important to prevent further resistant bacteria."

U.S. Antibiotic Week — formerly "Get Smart About Antibiotics Week" — is an annual initiative to improve antibiotic stewardship in communities and healthcare facilities. Throughout the week (Nov. 13-19), UI Health will be spreading awareness about antibiotic resistance and the importance of appropriate antibiotic use.

Here is how UI Health is practicing safe antibiotic treatment and how patients can be more informed about their antibiotic treatment.

Right Diagnosis: UI Health Recommends Not Using Antibiotics When They Are Unnecessary

The presence of bacteria does not mean an infection. Studies have found that treating bacteria without symptoms of infection may increase the risk of developing one. That is why it is important having the right diagnosis and use antibiotics when they are needed.

Right Drug: Select the Right Drug for Effective Treatment

An infection that requires antibiotics should be treated with the most specific antibiotic for that infection. UI Health has recommendations for antibiotics based on types of infections, and doctors and pharmacists work together to find the best course of treatment. Then your doctor might change your antibiotic to a more specific antibiotic after they get more information about your type of infection.

Right Duration: Treat the Infection for the Appropriate Length of Time

Studies have suggested that treating many types of infections with shorter days of antibiotics can be just as effective, and may be safer, than longer days. UI Health has established guidelines that doctor use to help decide how many days of antibiotics are necessary to effectively treat an infection.

Patients also have a role in preventing antibiotic resistance.

  • Always ask your provider if antibiotics are necessary and for how long.
  • Do not overuse antibiotics in an attempt to provide quicker relief from infection symptoms.
  • Do not self-diagnose infections or use antibiotics left over from a previous infection, or those purchased abroad.

Talk to your healthcare provider about the best treatment for your or your child's infection. For more information, visit the Division of Infectious Diseases.