Antibiotic ResistanceReducing the Risk of Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotics and similar drugs, together called antimicrobial agents, have been used for the last 70 years to treat patients who have infectious diseases. Since the 1940s, these drugs have greatly reduced illness and death.

However, antibiotics have been used so widely and for so long that the infectious organisms they are designed to kill have adapted to them, making the drugs less effective today.

In fact, each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 people die annually as a direct result of these infections.

“Antibiotics are powerful, lifesaving drugs when prescribed and used appropriately,” says Mark Jones, R.Ph., Director of the Bates County Memorial Hospital (BCMH) Pharmacy. “But if overused, the patient can become antibiotic resistant, creating an even more serious health problem.”

Missouri is one of the states the Centers for Disease Control has identified where antibiotics are frequently over-prescribed. “At Bates County Memorial Hospital, we’re committed to a Missouri Hospital Association initiative called antibiotic stewardship,” Mark says. The hospital also is working to meet the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid requirements, and Mark is pursuing additional education on this important issue.

“Our goal is to be sure antibiotics are prescribed only for bacterial infections, not for viruses, like a common cold or the flu,” Mark says. Most unnecessary antibiotics are prescribed for respiratory conditions caused by viruses – including common colds, viral sore throats, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections – which do not respond to antibiotics.

What’s all this mean for you?

In addition to the hospital doing its best to be sure antibiotics are appropriately prescribed, your health care provider also will be more cautious about writing a prescription for antibiotics.

“I know we would all like to just take a pill that helps us get over our cold or flu faster, but that’s not how antibiotics work. Symptom relief is usually the best treatment,” Mark says.

“Taking unneeded antibiotics for a sore throat or an ear infection may lead to future antibiotic-resistant infections, which is a far more serious threat to patient and public health,” Mark adds.

In the meantime, you can avoid drug-resistant infections by making sure you are up to date on immunizations, you prepare food safely, wash your hands frequently, and use antibiotics only when necessary and as directed.

“Our commitment at Bates County Memorial Hospital is to always use antibiotics appropriately and safely, only when they are needed to treat disease,” Mark says. “This is the best way to be sure we keep our patients healthy.”