When many of us get sick we often think we need an antibiotic to get better. This may not be true, in fact in some cases, it’s causing more harm than good. A new Time Magazine study shows just how much of a problem it is. The study said 25 percent of antibiotic prescrptions in the United States are inappropriate.
Inappropriate can mean a few things, such as patients asking for antibiotics when they are not needed, doctors prescribing too strong of antibiotics for what a patient has or prescribing an antibiotic for too long of a duration.
Dr. Emil Lesho, an infectious disease expert at Rochester Regional, said the more antibiotic pressure that is in the environment, the more pressure put on the bacteria to become resistant. When bacteria becomes resistant to an antibiotic, it is less effective and the patient will need a stronger one to treat what they have. It is a vicious cycle, and a very real problem.
To combat this problem, if patients are being prescribed an antibiotic, they can make sure they actually have a bacterial infection. Being educated and knowing what you are being prescribed is important.
If you do take an antibiotic when you don’t need to, you are putting yourself at risk for a superbug. This is when bacteria is hard to kill with one simple antibiotic, or even with stronger ones. Dr. Lesho said the World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control, among others, stress how serious this problem is. He said they list it as one of the most urgent and important threats to global public health worldwide.
Dr. Lesho is also concerned about the lack of funding for new antibiotics to be developed. If they are unable to make new ones, and bacteria are not responding to the existing ones, we may end up with no effective antibiotics in a shorter time than we think.
One way the antibiotic crisis is being addressed in the medical community is through stewardship programs. These programs teach healthcare providers to prescribe antibiotics wisely. Rochester Regional has one of these programs.