The Wall Street Journal has released an article covering the medical dilemma of antibiotic administration. Reports allege causes for the antibiotic resistant bugs that are currently threatening the human population can easily be prevented with conscientious prescribing methods. Allegedly, antibiotics are putting patients and the general public at risk for diseases, or antibiotic-resistant microbes. Medical practices are not the only influence of this danger; rather, agricultural businesses plays a more dominant role. Still, health officials warn physicians on antibiotic administration.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzed 323 hospitals in 2010, including over 11,000 patients in 183 hospitals in 2011. 36 percent of the patients studied were reportedly given an antibiotic known as vancomycin, either without testing or for too long of a treatment duration. It is reported that other antibiotics are also being overused for conditions such as urinary tract infections.
Overprescribing antibiotics is also claimed to cause a weakening effect over time on the population. These drugs have also been known to cause sickness in patients, making people vulnerable to infections like Clostridium difficile, a bacterial infection often seen in hospital settings. Mayo Clinic reports this bacterium to cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to inflammation of the colon, and leading to life-threatening situations. C. difficile usually affects older people in hospitals and elderly homes, and is typically a result of antibiotic medications. Recently, however, the rates of C. diff. have increased and among people not known to be at risk, and without a history of antibiotic use.
The Wall Street Journal reports that cutting back on antibiotic use by 30 percent would reduce the number of C. diff. infections by 26 percent; this is a large number when comparing the average 250,000 hospitalized patients who develop this infection, which can lead to sepsis or death. The CDC reports more still needs to be done.
Vancomycin is reportedly a dangerous antibiotic to be overused because it is considered a “workhorse drug” that can be used to treat Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which is an increasingly common infection.
A CDC official states, one study found in 20 percent of cases where vancomycin was given, the patient never had MRSA, but this is not to say the patient did not have an infection needing antibiotics. The CDC alleges vancomycin needs to be protected so that the people can be “protected.” Reportedly, some of the antibiotic resistant strains can be traced back to the causative influence of vancomycin overuse.
Environmental writer, Larry West, describes the purpose of antibiotics as purely an agent to stave off bacterial infections. According to West, antibiotics have been around since Alexander Fleming first discovered them. West acknowledges how the power and effectiveness of antibiotics have “waned” in recent years and many experts believe it is due to the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, in both medicine and agriculture.
The recent antibiotic resistance was first documented more than a decade ago when children stopped responding to basic ear infection treatments. Penicillin has also been reported weakening. MRSA, as the CDC director mentioned, is becoming increasingly difficult to treat leading medical analysts with the fear of “super bugs.” This antibiotic resistance is one of the CDC’s top priorities as it affects all people in the country, and in turn, everyone in the world.
The way agriculture plays into the super-bug epidemic is how farmers have been using antibiotics on their cattle. In the United States, cow, pig, and chickens have been known to be heavily treated with antibiotics due to the risk of contamination and disease. Antibiotic administration, however, has also been popularly used to promote growth in livestock.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is a non-profit research and advocacy group who reports about 70 percent of all antibiotics are used as additives given to pigs, chickens, and cattle. These drugs are known to exit the animals through their waste and eventually enter water sources, affecting even wild life. Still, pharmaceutical giants and agriculture businesses are fighting antibiotic restrictions. The agriculture industry is allegedly the most attributing cause to antibiotic resistant micro-organisms.
By Lindsey Alexander