Drug resistant bacteria is endangering one of the greatest discoveries in medical history 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibiotics are some of the most commonly prescribed drugs. For years, antibiotics have saved lives, prevented the spread of infection, and minimized serious complications of disease. Unfortunately, the misuse and over prescribing of antibiotics has created a global health challenge: antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic use and the spread of antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance is bacteria’s ability to survive antibiotic treatment. This resistance reduces the drug’s effectiveness to cure and prevent infections; bacteria survive, multiply and cause more harm as the resistant bacteria spread. Overuse of antibiotics is the most significant factor leading to antibiotic resistance globally.

During World Antibiotic Resistance Week, many leading health organizations shared best practices for prescribing and using antibiotics. Here are the facts:

  • At least 2 million people are infected annually in the U.S. with antibiotic resistant bacteria,
  • At least 23,000 deaths occur annually as a direct result of these infections,
  • Up to 50% of antibiotics prescribed are unnecessary, and
  • Most antibiotics used in the food industry are unnecessary

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Antibiotics are sometimes necessary  

Healthcare providers should follow up-to-date guidelines for when and when not to prescribe antibiotics in spite of pressure from patients.

Here are the recommended CDC antibiotic guidelines for the following adult conditions in an outpatient setting:

  • Acute bacterial rhinosinusitis
  • Pharyngitis
  • Acute uncomplicated cystitis

Here are the recommended CDC antibtioic guidleines for the following pediatric conditions in an outpatient setting:

  • Acute sinusitis
  • Acute otitis media
  • Pharyngitis
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)

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Telemedicine-based antimicrobial stewardship programs can help reduce antibiotic resistance

For healthcare professionals, changing prescribing behaviors can be difficult, but following recommended guidelines can help. The appropriate use of antibiotics is called antibiotic stewardship. Antimicrobial stewardship programs (ASP) can range in size and scope but share these common goals:

  • Promote adherence to clinical practice guidelines,
  • Improve clinical outcomes, and
  • Minimize the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria

Sonoma Valley Hospital has an excellent telemedicine-based stewardship initiative that monitors prescribing habits, reviews antibiotic orders daily, and facilitates periodic departmental discussions. Through telemedicine, the hospital collaborates with an infectious disease specialist to learn best practices for appropriate prescribing. Members of the program believe that ongoing educational efforts are key to changing physician prescribing habits.

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Education about appropriate antibiotic usage is important     

Physicians, pharmacists, microbiologists, epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists, have a key role to play in educating society about antibiotic usage and resistance. Telemedicine can be beneficial for multidisciplinary team collaboration and education.

The public also has a crucial role to play in antibiotic stewardship. Telemedicine can be an invaluable tool to educate patients on antibiotic usage, including the following:

  • Information on appropriate antibiotic dosage
  • Strict guidelines on course duration and completion
  • Guidelines on missed doses and how to discard any leftover antibiotics
  • Guidelines on not sharing antibiotics
  • Good hygiene practices
  • Recommended vaccinations for children and adults
  • Reporting and documenting allergies, especially to penicillin

Ultimately, it is everyone’s responsibility to maintain appropriate antibiotic usage. If we work together, we can minimize the threat of antibiotic resistance.

Want to help the fight against antibiotic resistance? Join the HealthTap network today. Click the button below to start your application.

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Simitha Singh Rambiritch

Simitha Singh Rambiritch is a Dentist from South Africa with a Masters in Science in Oral Medicine and Periodontology from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). She was a clinician in the South African public and private sector and an oral medicine and periodontology lecturer for dental and oral hygiene students at the Wits School of Oral Health Sciences for almost 8 years. She also authored several publications in the South African Dental Journal. Simitha was the 2013 recipient of the Margot Lachmann Fellowship, for excellence in cancer research, with a focus on early diagnostic biomarkers in premalignant and autoimmune conditions and their conversion rate to oral cancer. She was invited to present her findings at the 9th International Congress on Autoimmunity in Nice, France.

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