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As antibiotic use in hospitals becomes more frequent, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) urges hospitals and healthcare systems to step up efforts to protect patients by improving antibiotic-prescribing practices. A new Vital Signs report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spotlights the issue of antibiotic overuse as a threat to patient safety, recommending all hospitals implement antimicrobial stewardship programs.
“Antibiotics are a precious resource, yet for decades we have not had a systematic approach in hospitals across the U.S. to ensure they are used wisely,” says Sara Cosgrove, MD, MS, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University and chair of SHEA’s Antimicrobial Stewardship Taskforce. “Antimicrobial stewardship programs are a critical step toward stemming the tide of antibiotic resistance and ensuring patients are receiving the right antibiotic, at the right dose and for the right duration.”
Curbing unnecessary use of antibiotics is one of the best defenses against the spread of drug-resistant infections. The CDC report shows that clinicians in some hospitals prescribe three times as many antibiotics than clinicians in other hospitals, even though patients were receiving care in similar areas of each hospital. The report also found that a 30 percent reduction in use of the antibiotics could reduce Clostridium difficile infections by more than 25% in hospitals. C. difficile is bacteria that can cause severe diarrhea in patients who are exposed to antibiotics. The report includes a checklist to help hospital leadership preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics.
“Routine overuse of antibiotics causes harm to patients by putting them at risk for development of antibiotic-resistant infections and side effects such as C. difficile infections. Antimicrobial stewardship programs can help clinicians make good choices about the antibiotics they prescribe for their hospitalized patients,” adds Cosgrove.
SHEA is a recognized leader in promoting judicious antibiotic use in patients and populations via research and education in the area of antimicrobial stewardship. Together with several partner organizations, SHEA has developed a new website, Stewardship-Education.org, to assist clinicians with improving the use of antibiotics in healthcare settings.