CDC Warns Overuse of Antibiotics Can Be Lethal

CDC Warns Overuse of Antibiotics Can Be Lethal

The CDC warns that overuse of antibiotics could be lethal to your health, as it can result in the creation of superbugs that are highly resistant to currently available antibiotics, according to a government report that was released on Tuesday.

The prescribing of antibiotics varies from hospital to hospital, and doctor to doctor. There are some doctors who prescribe for their patients three times as much antibiotics as doctors do at other hospitals, treating similar patients with similar ailments.

The CDC obtained their data by analyzing information from 2010 from 323 hospitals and also from prescribing practices during 2011, at 183 hospitals and involving 11,282 patients.

Approximately 36 percent of the patients were prescribed vancomycin, a potent antibiotic, for a longer period of time than they should have been given it, according to the CDC report.

Also, referring to the data on the overuse of antibiotics by doctors and hospitals in 2010, the study mentioned that of all of the patients discharged from the 323 hospitals, 56 percent of the patients were prescribed antibiotics.

The study suggested that the prescribing of antibiotics could be done in a better way in at least 37 percent of the cases analyzed by the CDC researchers.

During 2010 at the the 323 hospitals, the CDC researchers found that antibiotics were prescribed the most frequently for lung infections. They were prescribed in 22 percent of the cases.

After that, they were prescribed 14 percent of the time for urinary tract infections, and antibiotics were prescribed 17 percent of the time for infections that doctors suspected were caused by Staphylococcus bacteria like MRSA that were drug-resistant.

The report stated that other antibiotics were also over prescribed and used. These antibiotics were prescribed in practically 40 percent of patients who had urinary-tract infections, according to the CDC report.

Why is overprescribing antibiotics potentially deadly?

The overprescribing of antibiotics is potentially deadly because they kill off good bacteria as well as bacteria that is harmful to humans. This practice often can make people more susceptible to the harmful bacteria which survives, like Clostridium difficile, and that bacteria is made more drug-resistant, mutating into what’s been referred to as “superbugs.”

Also according to the CDC report, if the overuse of antibiotics was cut by 30 percent, the number of people who become infected with C. difficile could be reduced to 26 percent. Close to 250,000 patients in hospitals each year become infected by the C. difficile. These infections can result in sepsis and sometimes even death.

According to CDC Director Tom Frieden, he has seen some patients who antibiotics no longer worked on. He has stated that he doesn’t want to see more examples of this frightening resistance to antibiotics become the norm in his patients.

The overprescribing of antibiotics can lead to the drugs becoming less effective and also lessen the effective life spans of any new drugs that are being develop, according to Frieden. Intravenous vancomycin is often over prescribed because it is effective in MRSA. However, 26 percent of the patients who were given it that were cited in the CDC report never had MRSA.

To continue the effectiveness of vancomycin in fighting MRSA, some doctors, like Dr. Srinivasan, suggests that if the patient turns out not to have MRSA, “maybe it’s time to stop the vancomycin.”

The government’s goal: to halve the rate of C. difficile in five years

If the goal that the government would like to see is attained within five years, and the halving of cases of C. difficile is successful, according to the CDC 150,000 hospitalizations could be prevented, 20,000 lives could be saved, and there would be a reduction in total health-care costs of $2 billion.

Patient advocate Mary Brennan-Taylor, whose mother died six weeks after getting infected while in a community hospital with gout in her leg, warns that the overprescribing of antibiotics “can be lethal.”

CDC Director Tom Frieden believes that the trend can be reversed, and antibiotics can regain their effectiveness. For this to happen, physicians need to change their habits and prescribe antibiotics only when they are absolutely necessary to be prescribed.

When is less more in cases where antibiotics are prescribed?

Oddly enough, prescribing antibiotics in 30 percent fewer cases rather than as a matter of habit can lower certain infections by greater than 25 percent. An example of this is with C. difficile diarrheal infections.

Antibiotics like extended-spectrum cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones, which are often prescribed, sometimes results in these sorts of infections. Reducing their uses by 30 percent can, in turn, reduce the cases of C. difficile diarrheal infections by 30 percent.

Dr. Friedan praises the part of the White House’s proposed budget for 2015, which was released on Tuesday, that adds an additional $30 million to aid the CDC in combating antibiotic-resistant diseases.According to Dr. Frieden, one key to the success of any attempt to halve the number of cases of C. difficile within five years is detecting antimicrobial threats earlier, and seeking to eliminate as many of the potential threats as possible.

The overuse of antibiotics, as the CDC details in its report which you can read at the last link below, can be lethal to your health. The good news is that cases of certain infections, which can be life-threatening, like MRSA and C. difficile, can be reduced, if steps are taken by physicians to improve the frequency that prescribe antibiotics to their patients.


Written by: Douglas Cobb

Morbidity and Mortality Report by the CDC

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