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Antibiotics are the key weapon for treating all forms of infection, but their judicious use is equally important
The chance discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928 can be described as the singular most important event in man’s fight against infection. Described as a “wonder drug,” it soon paved way for the discovery of many more antibiotics which proved to be highly effective against various infections.
One would be tempted to think that with so many antibiotics around, there would be hardly any room for infections. Alas, that is not true. Indiscriminate and rampant use of antibiotics, even in conditions where their efficacy is doubtful, has been leading to serious side effects. More and more bacteria are developing resistance against the commonly prescribed antibiotics. Unjustified use of antibiotics can seriously jeopardize the health of the patient and even put his life at risk.
But the antibiotic that is prescribed is often wrong or is prescribed for duration far longer than what is necessary. This may lead to serious complications including the development of Clostridium difficile infection, a deadly form of diarrhea.
One in three hospitalized patients of UTI receive wrong antibiotic medicine
For their survey, the CDCs went through the hospital admission details of around 300 hospitals across the US in 2010. It was found that 56% of the hospitalized patients had been prescribed antibiotics at some point of their stay. The researchers at the CDCs focused their attention on patients who had been admitted with the complaints of urinary tract infection (UTI) as they are one of the most common infection for which antibiotics are prescribed. They were amazed to find that one in every three patients admitted for UTI had been prescribed a wrong antibiotic without a proper diagnostic test to identify the causative bacteria, or the duration for which the antibiotic was prescribed was way too long than what is normally advocated.
Most of the doctors prescribe antibiotics as a knee jerk reaction
It was seen that hospitals lack a proper policy regarding prescribing of antibiotics. While certain hospitals preferred to prescribe a single antibiotic for a particular infection, other hospitals prescribed as many as three antibiotics for the same condition.
The researchers feel that such rampant and injudicious prescription of antibiotics is nothing more than a knee jerk reaction of the physicians. They feel pressurized to prescribe antibiotics to satisfy their patients and do not want to take any chance. This can be described as an extremely defensive way of practicing medicine.
Also, there are instances where the doctors are not properly informed and hence, prescribe a wrong antibiotic or an antibiotic for a wrong duration of time. Vancomycin was found to be the antibiotic most commonly prescribed for too long or in conditions were its use is not justified. What the doctors fail to realize is that their erroneous antibiotic prescribing methods put increasing number of patients at a higher risk of developing drug resistant infections.