Antibiotic Misuse Remains Key Issue in Fight to Control Disease, Reduce Healthcare Costs

Throughout communities and healthcare facilities, antibiotic overuse and misuse is threatening the efficacy of one of medicines most valuable lifesaving tools. Already, the effectiveness of many antibiotics has been reduced, without next generation drugs to take their place. The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) is joining the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other partners in Get Smart about Antibiotics Week to highlight this alarming trend and raise awareness of strategies and programs to stop it in its tracks.

Antimicrobial stewardshipprograms and interventions to help prescribers know when antibiotics are needed and what the best choices are for a particular patienthave begun to show their value and effectiveness, says Sara Cosgrove, MD, MS, associate professor of medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and SHEA board member. It is important that we continue to raise awareness about these programs and their benefits so that clinics and hospitals are expected to provide them routinely to ensure the best care for patients.

While several studies have shown the benefit of antimicrobial stewardship, SHEA is committed to advancing the science and practice of these programs. In April, SHEA will publish an issue of its journal, Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, dedicated to stewardship and featuring studies from around the world. This issue will provide an important opportunity for health care providers to learn collectively about the strategies that work best and under what circumstances.

In April, SHEA will also replace its regular annual meeting with the conference Advancing Healthcare Epidemiology and Antimicrobial Stewardship, and will include a two-day track devoted to antimicrobial stewardship. The conference will feature continuing education programs, symposium and keynote speeches to further advance the knowledge of stewardship in the medical community. All healthcare professionals are invited to attend to learn more about implementing and developing antimicrobial stewardship programs in their institutions.

This is not a false alarm; the threat of a return to a pre-antibiotic era has never been more real, says Cosgrove. We need to implement antimicrobial stewardship programs and interventions on a large scale to help preserve the antibiotics we have.

Everyone has a role to play in reducing antibiotic resistance. The way antibiotics are used today will impact how effective they will be in the future. To help maintain the effectiveness of todays antibiotics:
- Refrain from treating viral syndromes, like colds, with antibiotics.
- Prescribe the right antibiotic at the right dose for the right duration.
- Dont ask your doctor ask for antibiotics. Remember that antibiotics have side effects. When your doctor says you dont need an antibiotic, taking one may do more harm than good.

- Dont save antibiotics for the next illness. Discard any leftover medication once the prescribed course of treatment is completed.
- Prevent infections by practicing good hand hygiene and getting recommended vaccines.

Visit the SHEA website for more information on the appropriate use and management of antimicrobials in all healthcare settings to help slow resistance and improve patient care. Among the resources available are a comprehensive resource page and an online training for health professionals.