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Antibiotics are an important tool in man’s fight against infections. However, rampant and often indiscriminate use of antibiotics is not only rendering them ineffective but also giving rise to serious antibiotic resistant infections.

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.

According to a new report, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCs), more than 50% of the hospitalized patients are prescribed some or the other antibiotic.

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. 

Most of the doctors feel that they should prescribe an antibiotic even if there is a very remote chance of infection.

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.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • “Antibiotic misuse putting hospital patients at risk, CDC says,” by Jonathan Serrie, published on March 5, 2014 at foxnews.com, accessed on March 30, 2014
  • “Antibiotics: Misuse puts you and others at risk,” by Mayo Clinic Staff, accessed on March 30, 2014.
  • Photo courtesy of Catherine by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/spiritinme/4255839366
  • Photo courtesy of martinos79 by FreeImages : www.freeimages.com/photo/703276

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