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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Antibiotic Resistance

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The annual Get Smart About Antibiotics Week on Nov. 15-21, 2010 is one way to bring this problem to everyone's attention.

Antibiotics are essential to combat life-threatening bacterial infections, says Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of CDC. Unfortunately, misuse of antibiotics is widespread and contributes to resistance. We have to better promote appropriate use of antibiotics to preserve these life-saving tools.

Taking or prescribing antibiotics when they are not needed creates additional health risks. And, antibiotic use can lead to antibiotic resistance — when bacteria change in a way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of antibiotics. As resistance increases, a patient’s risk of complications or death from an infection also increases. Additionally, antibiotic-resistant bacteria have the potential to spread between people and cause severe infections. Reducing unnecessary antibiotic use can reduce avoidable adverse events including Clostridium difficile infections (a deadly diarrheal infection) and allergic reactions.

Antibiotics are a shared resource and, for some infections, are becoming a scarce resource, says Dr. Lauri Hicks, medical director for CDC’s Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work program. The problem is we expect antibiotics to work for every illness, but they don’t. If you have a cold, antibiotics will not work for you.

Studies indicate that nearly 50% of antimicrobial use in hospitals is unnecessary or inappropriate. There is no doubt that this overuse of antibiotics is contributing to the growing challenges posed by Clostridium difficile and other antibiotic-resistant bacteria in many hospitals. However, studies also demonstrate that improving the use of antibiotics in hospitals can not only help reduce rates of Clostridium difficile infection and antibiotic resistance, but can also improve individual patient outcomes, all while saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in healthcare costs. Get Smart for Healthcare is a CDC campaign focused on improving antibiotic use in inpatient healthcare facilities, starting with hospitals and then expanding to long-term care facilities.

The goal of Get Smart for Healthcare is to optimize the use of antimicrobial agents in inpatient healthcare settings by focusing on strategies to help hospitals and other inpatient facilities implement interventions to improve antibiotic use. Interventions and programs designed to improve antibiotic use are also referred to as antimicrobial stewardship.

For additional information about Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work or Get Smart for Healthcare, please visit or

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