The Global Fight to Reduce Antibiotic Resistance
By Elise Chambers, MD
When most people hear about antibiotic resistance and the concept of “superbugs”, much can be left to conjure up in our imaginations. What is antibiotic resistance, how does it affect our daily lives, and what does it mean for our future? First and foremost, the future is NOW. High levels of resistance to antibiotics are being found worldwide, in every corner of the planet. This means that common bacterial infections such as pneumonia, skin infections, urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases, and more are not able to be treated by the antibiotics that historically worked and cured these infections. Science is in a race with mother nature to find a way to treat these changing conditions. We must ensure we can continue to treat common infections and prevent them from becoming more serious and a cause of significant illness. Worsening antibiotic resistance leads to high medical costs, more hospital stays, and increased mortality. The World Health Organization has made fighting antibiotic resistance a top global priority. It has made recommendations that are easy for all people to keep in mind when feeling sick or taking medications. First, only use antibiotics when prescribed to you by a health care professional, and ensure you complete your full course of antibiotics. Understand that not all illnesses are caused by bacteria. Many people fall ill due to viruses, and these illnesses are not treated with antibiotics. Don’t take someone else’s medicine if you are ill – always talk to your doctor or healthcare provider if you feel ill and don’t understand why you weren’t prescribed antibiotics. Practice diligent handwashing. If you are sexually active, wear a condom to prevent STD transmission. The GLASS (Global Antimicrobial Surveillance System) with the WHO recently showed widespread antibiotic resistance among 500,000 people across 22 countries. The American College of Physicians just released up-to-date guidelines on antibiotic prescribing for some of the most commonly treated infections we see in primary care. These are helpful evidence-based guidelines that we implement in our practice to ensure we give the very best, up to date and evidence-based care to our patients.
Every one of us, whether we are patients or health care providers, can do our part to help slow the spread of resistance and keep this issue from becoming a worsening global health threat. To read more on the WHO’s campaign against antibiotic resistance, see the website below: