For decades, medical science has waged war against the bacteria that have long bedeviled mankind. That fight goes on, but it’s taken on an ironic new dimension. The antibiotics that gave medical providers the upper hand in battling infectious diseases have in many cases made the job more difficult.
Arjun Srinivasan, MD, of the CDC presented a national update on antibiotic stewardship to representatives of more than two dozen Colorado hospitals at UCH on May 6.
The problem is widespread overprescribing of antibiotics. These medications save lives and limbs, but they can wreak havoc if they are administered indiscriminately or for too long a time. In such cases, antibiotics can wipe out bacteria in the gut that people need – opening the door to dangerous infections, like Clostridium difficile
) – and encourage the evolution of ever-more resistant strains that menace public health and require more powerful antibiotics that can cause separate health problems.
The threat is real, as increasing rates of C. diff
in Colorado and elsewhere and outbreaks of highly resistant infections attest. It’s drawn intense attention from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
and the White House
. That’s not surprising, considering that the total economic burden of treating patients with antibiotic-resistant infections has been estimated at
between $20 billion and $35 billion. A recent study
from the CDC and the Pew Charitable Trust concluded that one in three antibiotic prescriptions written is unnecessary.