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Overuse of antibiotics increasing incidence of resistant strains

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 2 million Americans are estimated to fall ill every year because of an antibiotic-resistant infection, with 23,000 of them ultimately succumbing to these illnesses. The problem is a growing one, and concerns all of us, particularly because studies have shown that part of the problem may stem from the unscrupulous use of antibiotics in medical care.

According to a study published in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, hospitals in the United States used antibiotics unnecessarily in 78 percent of the 505 hospitals examined by researchers between 2008 and 2011. Not only is there a financial cost to prescribing unnecessary medications, there is also a public health cost. 

One resistant strain of bacteria known as Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, is becoming a particular problem in hospitals across the United States. Patients who are infected with the bacteria may experience sepsis, which can lead to death in cases where physicians are negligent in recognizing and treating the condition. One of the ways to address the problem is simply to reduce the use of antibiotics. In fact, reducing antibiotic use by 30 percent could lead to a 26 percent reduction in C. diff infections.

It isn’t clear whether broad efforts to address the problem are being made by government agencies, but physicians do have the responsibility to keep the risk in mind when prescribing antibiotics. Doctors who unscrupulously prescribe antibiotics to their patients are undoubtedly contributing to the problem. With the problem being so widespread, it is critical that doctors recognize the symptoms of infection in their patients and take appropriate and timely action, as is their duty.

Source: Fox News, “With overuse, antibiotics become bad medicine,” Elizabeth Renter, October 1, 2014. 

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