Monday, June 26, 2006

Get smart about antibiotics.

Anyone who's worked with bacteria in the lab knows that antibiotic resistance occurs regularly. In the lab, this can be a good thing, depending on your experiment, but in public health and medicine, it is a very big problem:
Over the last decade, almost every type of bacteria has become stronger and less responsive to antibiotic treatment when it is really needed. These antibiotic-resistant bacteria can quickly spread to family members, schoolmates, and co-workers - threatening the community with a new strain of infectious disease that is more difficult to cure and more expensive to treat.

Perhaps you can see why antibiotic resistance has been called one of the world's major public health concerns. For that reason, in 1995, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) started a National Campaign for Appropriate Antibiotic Use in the Community that "promotes four strategies that clinicians can use to prevent antimicrobial resistance among different groups of patients.

1. Prevent infection.
2. Diagnose and treat infection effectively.
3. Use antimicrobials wisely.
4. Prevent transmission.

This post focuses on responsible public use of antibiotics. Here are five things you can do to reduce the growth and spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria (microbes):

--> Do not take an antibiotic for a viral infection like a cold or the flu. Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses.

--> Do not save some of your antibiotic for the next time you get sick. Discard any leftover medication once you have completed your prescribed course of treatment. Don't share your antibiotic with others.

--> Take an antibiotic exactly as the healthcare provider tells you. Do not skip doses. Complete the prescribed course of treatment even if you are feeling better. If treatment stops too soon, some bacteria may survive and re-infect you or another.

--> Do not take antibiotics prescribed for someone else. The antibiotic may not be appropriate for your illness. Taking the wrong medicine may delay correct treatment, increase resistance, and allow bacteria to multiply.

--> Do not pressure your healthcare provider to prescribe an antibiotic. If your provider determines that you do not have a bacterial infection, ask about ways to help relieve your symptoms.

So if you are going to take antibiotics, take them as directed. Get smart. Take antibiotics responsibly, not only for for your own health, but for that of those in your family and community.

"The misuse of penicillin could be the propagation of mutant forms of bacteria that would resist the new miracle drug." - Alexander Fleming, discoverer of penicillin, as quoted in a 1945 New York Times interview


superkain said...

Holy Cow. I knew some of this stuff, but I didn't know it was such a big deal.

I have held onto antibiotics before. Bad idea.

Karama said...

Hi Superkain,

Yeah, it's a pretty big deal. But it's easy for each of us to do our part in reducing the problem of antibiotic resistance. And it's critical for the health of our communities. So spread the word!

Thanks for visiting So what can I do, Superkain. I hope you enjoyed what you read, and will visit again soon.

Seth said...

I love your blog! I started an activism blog also: Seth's Postcards I try to make a difference by writing postcards to people in charge on issues I care about. I've been blogging them online hoping it will help others get involved. You have some great ideas for things I can write postcards about. Thanks!

Karama said...

I'm so pleased you are enjoying So what can I do, Seth, and I'm glad you are finding it useful. You postcard blog is a neat idea. You may want to read this post and visit my other blog, Open Letters for Change for some other ideas on writing political, media and other leaders.

Best wishes with you blog, Seth I hope you'll visit again soon, and spread the word.

Sunny Smith said...

I've also heard that the overuse of anti-bacterial hand solutions and soaps assists in the mutation and increasing resistance of bacteria. There is really no need for these agents - nothing can replace hot water, a good lather and 20 seconds of washing. Also a great way to prevent infections!

Karama said...

Thanks for your comment, Sunny. You are right, most antibacterial soaps are not necessary, particularly since most folks don't lather long enough for the antibacterial agents to work. Your suggestion for plain soap, hot water and a good lather is a excellent one! Thanks for sharing.

I hope you enjoyed your vist to So what can I do. Please come back again soon, and spread the word!

bigdawg said...

Excellent blog!!

A few comments: Neither my wife, nor I, have taken antibiotics in about 12-15 years. There is no real need for it, as your body has its own defense mechanism in place. Also, our children, ages 5 and 3 have never had any medicine, other than maybe a spoon of tylenol. Most of our practive is through Natural Remedies.

As for soap, the dirt is removed by the friction caused by rubbing your hands together. The dirt ends up in the lather. The water just removes the dirt by removing the later. There is no need for antibacterial stuff. Also, the soaps that already lather up are a joke.

Karama said...

I agree, Michael, most of the time antibiotics are unnecessary. Our bodies (immune system) have been successfully fighting off bacterial and other infections since before humans existed. But when antibiotics are taken, it's important that they be taken correctly.

And thanks for the reminder about soap. The chemical structure of soaps and detergents does help kill and remove bacteria, but friction does a lot of the work too. Definitely no need for the antibacterial kind, at least in most homes.

I'm glad you like So what can I do. Please come back again soon, and spread the word.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for highlighting this issue:

As a nurse, I have seen an increase in antibiotic-resistent diseases. One reason is because people do not use the full regimen of medication. Second is because people pester their docs into prescribing antibiotics when they are not needed.

As a legislator, I found out about the overuse of antibiotics in livestock (to increase sale weight). Much of the excreted antibiotic ends up in runoff. Another is the disposal of medical wastes in landfills and areas of runoff (brought to light by a science project of a high school student). Both contribute to the growth of resistent organisms.

Jim Lendall
Green Party Candidate for Arkansas Governor

Karama said...

Hello Jim,

Thanks for your comment and your visit to So what can I do. This is indeed an important issue for all of us and I'm glad to hear that you are aware of it. Thanks also for mentioned the overuse of antibiotics in livestock. That's a big problem for everyone, regardless of whether or not we consume livestock treated with antibiotics.

I hope you enjoyed your visit to So what can I do. Please stop by again soon, and spread the word. Best wishes on your campaign for governor of my home state!